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NRC Doing Study Spent Fuel

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will have its plans for fuel storage re-evaluated after a federal court decision no longer allows power plants -including Oyster Creek-from storing radioactive waste on site for up to 60 years after a plant closes down.

Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant (Exelon)
Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant (Exelon)

A Federal Appeals court threw out the rule which allowed the waste to be stored on site, and now the NRC will commission a two year environmental study to determine what can be done with the materials.

“It would have to show that it would be safe to for this material to be stored on site for a longer period of time.” Says Neil Sheehan region 1 spokesperson for the NRC.

The NRC’s staff will develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) and a revised waste confidence decision and rule on the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Sheehan say Environmental Assessments “cover a wide range of areas, that include impacts on water, air, people, and potential impacts on the population.”

The June 8th decision by the three judge panel unanimously decided the NRC did not fully evaluate the risks with long term fuel storage. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was called upon after New Jersey’s DEP joined New York, Vermont, and Connecticut in saying that extending on site storage from thirty to sixty years was unacceptable.

Sheehan notes currently there aren’t really any options available other than storage of nuclear waste.

“We don’t have a national repository for spent nuclear fuel, re don’t do recycling of fuel in this country. That stopped under President Carter under nuclear proliferation concerns. We don’t have interim spent fuel storage facilities.”

Adding that it is primarily a national policy issue.

The NRC isn’t completely under the gun if environmental tests come up negative since the previous Waste Confidence Decision was not challenged and still allows nuclear waste to be stored onsite for thirty years after the plant’s closure.

“So we’re still talking about sometime this century so there is time to come up with a national solution.”

Currently nuclear waste is held in spent fuel pools or dry cask storage, and Sheehan say though both are considered safe, more facilities are starting to favor dry cask storage.

“It would be less susceptible to any kind of pump or water leakage which is something whether spent fuel can be moved into dry cask storage is one of the open questions at this point. “

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