Let’s Chat about Waste Confidence

Andy Imboden
Chief of the Communications, Planning, and Rulemaking Branch
Waste Confidence Directorate

Update: My name is Keith McConnell and I am the Director of the Waste Confidence Directorate. Unfortunately, Andy Imboden, who was scheduled to moderate today’s Chat, can’t be here so I’ll be answering your questions.

I have been at the NRC since 1986, bringing my background and expertise as a geologist to various projects, including waste management, decommissioning and uranium recovery, as well as other positions. I have also served three NRC chairmen and in the Office of General Counsel.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Clemson, a Master’s in Geological Sciences from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of South Carolina.

Also, we’ve just posted a new YouTube Video — NRC Q&As Series: Three Minutes with Waste Confidence Directorate. Please give it a look.


On June 8, 2012, a U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the NRC’s Waste Confidence Rule. That rule contained the NRC’s determination that the environmental impacts of storing spent nuclear fuel after the end of a nuclear power plant’s license are not significant. The Waste Confidence ruling affected commercial nuclear power plant license reviews and spent-fuel storage reviews.

Picture2Tomorrow, from 2 to 3 p.m. EDT, I’ll respond to your questions during a Chat about NRC’s ongoing efforts to develop an updated Waste Confidence Rule. As you can imagine, many policy, legal, and technical issues will affect the rule.

By way of background, the Department of Energy is the federal agency with responsibility for the final disposal of the spent fuel in a deep geologic repository; the NRC’s role is to evaluate the application submitted to license the construction and operation of a repository. What the NRC is addressing currently (and in the Chat tomorrow) is how we’ll address the environmental impacts of the spent fuel after the nuclear power plant that generated it has stopped operating, but before it’s moved to permanent disposal elsewhere.

In the coming months, the NRC will release both a proposed new Waste Confidence rule and a draft generic environmental impact statement for public review and comment. But before we have that official comment period, I’m looking forward to answering your questions about proposed Waste Confidence Rule and the draft generic environmental impact statement. We want you to have as much chatdropquoteinformation as possible so you can fully participate in the official comment process.

Prior to our Chat, you can visit NRC’s Waste Confidence website for more information.

If you have any questions before tomorrow’s Chat, you can submit them to OPA.Resource@nrc.gov. I’m looking forward to your questions and comments. Just one note, though, this Chat is informal and your comments will not be included in our official comment process.

I look forward to hearing from you on July 23d.

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

14 thoughts on “Let’s Chat about Waste Confidence”

  1. Chernobyl was covered with a low budget covering designed for a 25 year life till they raise enough money to properly cover it, after many years they are asking for financial help, parts have already caved in and patched up. How long is temporary, they claimed that they stopped the fuel from descending so it is sitting close to the surface. Who knows what can happen if a storm causes the covering to collapse and stirs the pot. If this is not a serious problem then why don’t they blow it down and seal it.
    Tell these people at this site and the thousands that are effected from what they were exposed to, that their health is fine.

  2. Courts always take their decision according to their law but some times they don’t care about humanity it is really very unexpected.

  3. Putting it in the cask in the first place is an operational requirement due to limitations in spent fuel pool capacity. It would have to be moved ONCE to either a permanant facility or ISFSI. Adding another unload and reload is an INCREASE in the risk compared to doing a single loading, which was already completed.

    ” I have a hard time believing the event described, there has to be more to this than is told.”

    You could try reading what happened, and the exemption to the license. They misunderstood the chart with regards to heat loads in the cask. They thought they were loading the casks correctly from a heat load perspective, but they did not, but it still happened to be within the safety capacity of the casks, AND heat loads have dropped to within the tolerances of the license. This was an ex post facto correction of the license, not an exemption to allow them to continue going forward out of compliance. But again, what do I know? I only read the document.

  4. Statement:The risk of a radioactive release due to trying to transfer more fuel, along with the radiation the workers would be exposed to while trying to “correct” the issue after the fact is not worth it. Personally, and I am a nuclear professional, I would rather fuel stay in a cask once its there, because the more you take it in and out, the greater your risk of an accident occurring. There is no risk to leaving the fuel in the current configuration.
    Yet apparently the exposure to workers handling the fuel when storing it is acceptable but not when moving it, it looks like the same O, same O when it is dollars/safety. So lesson learned is store casks regardless because there is no extra penalties. They test the fuel before handling to protect workers so must have known the state of the fuel before storage but put it in place. Where any worker over exposed when placing fuel in cask. I have a hard time believing the event described, there has to be more to this than is told.

  5. Upon reading about the dominion dry cask event, I think you are misrepresenting it a little bit.

    It is true, the loading at the time was not in compliance with the cask CoC. However, at the time of discovery, the entire system was in compliance with the CoC, and at no time was there a safety issue, particularly when the mistake was identified.

    Because they are now again in compliance, I don’t see the reason that they would need to make a change to the casks. Compliance TODAY was restored due to decay time. They asked for the exemption to clear up the past violation of their license, as there were no safety hazards and it was within the public interest. The risk of a radioactive release due to trying to transfer more fuel, along with the radiation the workers would be exposed to while trying to “correct” the issue after the fact is not worth it. Personally, and I am a nuclear professional, I would rather fuel stay in a cask once its there, because the more you take it in and out, the greater your risk of an accident occurring. There is no risk to leaving the fuel in the current configuration.

    your post seems to be ignoring the fact that the Dominion casks ARE in compliance now. You also mention Hanford which isn’t regulated by the NRC for its waste disposal, to somehow try and make the waste issue seem worse than it is.

    Directly from your link:
    “Currently, the twelve affected fuel assemblies have been in storage for a minimum of 1.3 years and have decayed to meet the required decay heat limits of the CoC.”

  6. No, Chernobyl is not a huge problem. The people who refused to evacuate are healthier and have experienced longer life expectancies than the folks who did evacuate. The unoccupied land is a thriving natural wildlife preserve. The wrecked power plant just sits there, becoming less radioactive every day. How exactly is it a “huge problem”? What imminent thread to life or health does it present, just sitting there?

    As to attacks on a waste depository. Educate yourself a bit on how difficult it is to actually effect anything underground with explosives from above. And if you do manage to affect the underground, the result is just to bury it, not to spread it. However, given the toughness of dry cask storage, as demonstrated by real world tests, as opposed to wild speculation by anti-nuke evangelists, they could be left sitting out in the open at every nuclear reactor in the country and not present a vulnerability. The explosives that a drone can carry might clean off the outer surface a bit, but it won’t break those casks.

    And even if one did break, the contents would just lay on the ground in chunks. It’s not like the casks are filled with dust ready to be atomized into the atmosphere. It’s solid chunks which just won’t spread.

    Your fears are unfounded.

  7. I’m hoping to attend meeting but can’t until around 2:30. I hope the NRC doesn’t decide to end it early as they have done in past public meetings.
    The industry knows the dangers of the pools being over loaded, yet has dragged it’s feet in removing and placing in dry cask storage on site. (The NRC has allowed it)
    This would be the safest thing to do for now.
    What is the reason? Perhaps the company does not want to spend the money? I was told at a meeting that the utility couldn’t even get but so many ordered a year?
    The idea of shipping this waste around the country on our roads,waterways,and by train as a solution is absurd. The NRC and the nuclear industry needs to prove they can safely remove and store it on site.

    Dominion’s North Anna got an exemption last year when they improperly stored the spent fuel in the dry casks. But claimed it would be expensive and expose people to radiation if they were to fix.
    This exemption would allow the licensee to continue to store seven DSCs (loaded with spent nuclear fuel assemblies having decay heat exceeding the limits required by CoC No. 1030, Amendment No. 0, at the time of loading) in their as-loaded configuration at the North Anna Power Station ISFSI. The provisions in 10 CFR Part 72 from which Dominion is requesting an exemption, require the licensee to comply with the terms, conditions, and specifications of the CoC for the approved cask model that it uses.

    I have NO confidence at this time, as we already have a huge leaking problem at Hanford….Lessons learned from the ongoing disaster in Fukushima,have not fully been understood, nor any measures other than “proposed” rules/action have been taken.

    Mountain of Nuclear Waste 70 Years High: A Conversation with Kevin Kamps:

  8. Yeah, good luck with that, given that the current and former NRC Chairpeople are Reid’s minions and they both helped in the murder of the perfectly good Yucca depository — not to mention wasting $15 billion of the public’s money by making unusable a perfectly good facility. How many man lives of labor was that wasted for the hubris of one man and his corrupt minions?

  9. Putting waste in one location is a risk that if a biblical event happens it will be compounded by so much fuel at hand to spur the disaster on. The risk of a space object natural or man made hitting the site is low but the out come if it hits is far to risky and with cheap drones delivering weapons of mass destruction a head of a strike force is high. Like two disasters already we know it can bankrupt a wealthy nation. If a smaller country is the choice to put the fuel, who will clean up the mess, not a smaller country then the top five countries, Chernobyl is still sitting with a temporary shell falling apart over it that Russia can not afford to make any safer, it is still a huge problem.

  10. Couldn’t help but notice that your announcement of a “chat” includes no info on how to participate, only how to submit questions and how to be informed beforehand. Is there a site for the “chat”; is there somewhere on a site that one clicks onto? N Pierce

  11. Generally, courts do not know much about technical. environmental and terrorist issues, but they hit the nail on the head with this ruling. Storing spent nuclear fuel at local high level nuclear waste dumps scattered around the country (and world) is not acceptable! The place to store it is in secured and properly engineered facilities in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as soon as Harry Reid gets smart or is voted out of office!

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