The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will resume issuing licenses for new atomic reactors and allowing existing plants to extend operations after addressing flaws in its waste rules.
The commission approved a final rule addressing the environmental effects of storing spent nuclear fuel at a plant site, satisfying a court order that it needed to consider the possibility a permanent underground waste repository may never be built in the U.S., according to a statement Tuesday.
The Court of Appeals struck down the agency’s “waste confidence” rule in June 2012, saying the regulator also needed to do further studies on spent fuel pool leaks and fires. The agency suspended final licensing decisions on new reactors as well as license renewals for plants and storage facilities while it formulated its response. That suspension will be lifted once the final storage rule becomes effective, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
“The completion of this rulemaking is an important step that will facilitate final decisions on industry licensing actions pending,” said Ellen Ginsberg, general counsel for the Washington-based industry group the Nuclear Energy Institute.
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Eight applications to build reactors await action, according to the agency’s website. About 74 percent of the 100 operating U.S. reactors have been relicensed, allowing them to operate 20 years beyond their original 40-year lifespan.
Among the plants awaiting relicensing are Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point reactors in New York and PG&E Corp.’s Diablo Canyon units in California.