U.S. NRC Blog

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Waste Confidence Final Rule Now Before the Commission

Andy Imboden
Communications Branch Chief
Waste Confidence Directorate

 

After thousands of public comments, dozens of meetings and hundreds of written pages, the NRC Commissioners are now deliberating the draft final rule and draft generic environmental impact statement on the continued storage of spent nuclear fuel – what used to be called “waste confidence.”

Under NRC procedures, and in support of our agency’s transparency and openness goals, we are making three documents including the draft final rule and environmental impact statement available – you can find them on the NRC’s waste confidence webpage:

  • A staff paper, SECY-14-0072: Final Rule: Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel;
  • A draft Federal Register notice on the final rule; and
  • A draft NUREG-2157: Generic Environmental Impact Statement for Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel – Final Report (GEIS).

To be clear, the draft final rule and draft GEIS are not yet final and are not for public comment. NUREG-2157 includes a lengthy Appendix D that summarizes and responds to more than 33,000 written comments we received when the draft GEIS and proposed rule were published for comment last year. They are “draft final” documents because they need Commission approval before they become final agency action. The Commission may approve, modify, or disapprove them.

Some important points to remember: The final Continued Storage rule represents a generic finding on the environmental impacts of continued storage of spent nuclear fuel beyond the licensed operating life of a reactor. It does not license or approve any storage facility or any nuclear power reactors. The facilities are licensed – or licenses are renewed – based on site-specific application reviews.

The rule is to be used as a part of the overall environmental review for new reactor license applications, current reactor renewal applications, and spent fuel storage facility license reviews in these site-specific proceedings. The GEIS serves as the regulatory basis for the rule, and does not replace the staff’s comprehensive environmental review in individual licensing proceedings.

The name change from “waste confidence” to “continued storage” is just one way the new rule differs from previous versions, including the 2010 version that was struck down by the D.C. Circuit U.S. Appeals Court. (That ruling two years ago prompted the current rulemaking effort.) The name change and other changes are in part due to public comment, and are further explained in the staff paper and the Federal Register notice. The latter also includes an extensive question-and-answer section about the staff’s review and conclusions.

13 responses to “Waste Confidence Final Rule Now Before the Commission

  1. Oona Houlihan August 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Well, this document about storage of already spent fuel is in my opinion not the ideal moment to expound the virtues of solar energy, whether it works or not (at least with photovoltaically produced electricity we either solve the storage problem or else we eventually destabilize the grid). That is neither here nor there. Spent fuel (and nuclear waste in general) will be with us for the next tens if not hundreds of thousands of years and coming around from haughty verbiage like “waste confidence” seems a good start if it is not window-dressing alone. The “more than 33,000 written comments” strike me as an interesting piece of information. Ever since the heydays of anti-nuclear protests in the nineteen-seventies and -eighties I observed less and less wide-spread interest in nuclear energy. At least in Europe, many people seemed to think the problem was over when new reactor applications stalled. But that takes not one jot away from the waste or spent fuel those that are still running produce on a daily basis or the fuel that will survive any decommissioned reactor until no one remembers its originator. Now I don’t know the quality of each comment but at least it seems commendable they were individually dealt with. Again, this was not the case thirty or more years ago. The way to go then was to simply ignore them, delegate the drafts to some academic committee and then publish it from “on high”. This new way may go a long way to ensure humanity does not “forget” the problem, like most archaeology, in a few hundred years only t then be “surprised” at “digging it up” accidentally.

  2. R Johnson August 6, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Please mail me a hard copy of the new GEIS report:

    Thank you,

    Roger Johnson, PhD Professor Emeritus San Clemente, CA

    Moderator Note: Personal information removed

  3. CaptD July 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    Here is a less than 3 min. video that does a great job describing the dry cask storage issues, it points out why the NRC needs to step up its regulation of ☢ storage.

    Donna Gilmore talking about dry cask storage for San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station

  4. Ace Hoffman (@AceHoffman) July 29, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    33,000 comments and Rod Adams thinks not one of them will lead to an improvement. I guess being sold on a bad idea, it’s hard to see the light. Among the 33,000, of who despise the whole mess, Rod thinks they are all in favor of being CONned instead — Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas. Actually, the desired switch is to use the OBVIOUS power source here for the taking: Solar power in all its forms. People on this forum wouldn’t know about that, any more than buggy-whip manufacturers could acknowledge their world was collapsing way back when Henry Ford was stealing the show. The spent fuel is extremely hazardous for extremely long times, reusing it is absurd since all the plants should be closed in the first place, and the more waste there is that needs “continued storage,” the more likely there is to be an accident somewhere amongst the 10,000+ dry casks that are right now inevitable without some better solution. Simple math there. That’s a lot of targets for Mother Nature (or others) to attack. So it’s time to stop making more of this “continued storage” stuff, another confusing and irrelevant name for the main product of nuclear fission: fission products (such as strontium, cesium, iodine, etc) and activation products (such as plutonium). Heat, and eventually electricity (after many interim transformations to hot liquid, steam, spinning machinery, etc.), are but fleeting byproducts of the manufacturing process of creating fission products and activation products.

    The world is ready to do better. Economically, renewables simply blow away (pun intended) nuclear reactors — yes, in part because reactors have to have so many regulatory hurdles to ensure any modicum of safety. It is NRC’s duty for bring about an orderly closure of all nuclear power plants, as quickly as possible. One meltdown in America will probably do the trick and is inevitable, somewhere, without closure. But that is one too many. Fukushima was American technology, boiling water reactors operated just like our BWRs are. No more excuses like: “it can only happen in Russia because they’re stupid (or because they’re communists, or because their’s are graphite reactors, or because they ran an unauthorized experiment…).” There are too many cards stacked against the nuclear industry for it to remain meltdown-free in America (or France, or several other places) for long. And dry casks are vulnerable to airplane strikes and many other hazards. Let’s stop playing this game before we get burned. Again.

  5. Andrew Johnson July 27, 2014 at 6:02 am

    It good to see it’s happening after so long.

  6. Rod Adams (@Atomicrod) July 26, 2014 at 5:24 am

    I wonder how all of this effort involving “thousands of public comments, dozens of meetings and hundreds of written pages” will improve long term safety?

    No one has ever been harmed by exposure to the used nuclear fuel from a commercial reactor. None of the material has entered the biosphere. We have always had a pretty good idea about the protections required to keep the material safely encapsulated and shielded.

    Nuclear reactors can be operated safely and efficiently with almost no impact on the environment. Their waste production is minimal and would be even less if we recycled the used fuel.

    It’s time to stop allowing “the waste issue” to be used as a means of constipating nuclear energy growth. We need the clean power; especially as we continue to improve our understanding of the negative effects of burning hydrocarbons.

    Nuclear energy is the only real competition for coal, oil and natural gas and should be allowed to flourish despite the efforts of people who don’t like the loss of market share that it represents for their favored power sources.

    • CaptD July 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      Rod – You better start to catch up on your reading about all the hundreds of Billions of dollars now being spent dealing with nuclear waste and the damages being caused by it…

      This is nothing less than ☢ Make Work Project, by the very same nuclear Industry that got paid to do the work in the first place, who told US they were experts in nuclear safety! As it turns out the nuclear industry is also expert in making money by creating problems that only they are qualified to deal with at the taxpayers expense of course.

      Here is a recent article as an example:

      After $40 Billion, America’s Biggest Nuclear Dump Is Still Leaking
      Posted by Charleston Voice

      http://chasvoice.blogspot.com/2014/07/after-40-billion-americas-biggest.html

      Decommissioning NPP’s, radioactive waste/leakage cleanup and radioactive storage will be THE ways that the nuclear Industry makes money in the future, so we better get it right now or it will even be more expensive and that is if nothing goes BAD…

  7. CaptD July 24, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Given so many Experts have submitted public comments, especially about MOX/high burn up fuel, it will be very interesting to see what the NRC finally comes up with that is different from what was in place before this review effort.

    • Christina MacPherson July 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

      Perhaps they will come up with pretty much the same thing, but with this changed name to make it seem more sensible – less of a religious fervour of belief about the Coming Of A Safe Way To Deal With Radioactive Trash

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