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NRC Stops Issuing Nuclear Reactor Licenses... For Now

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A June decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is making waves now, after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided to stay the issuance of at least nineteen final reactor licenses.

The D.C. Circuit decision, which came down on June 8, rejected the NRC rule that allowed licensing and re-licensing of nuclear reactors. The NRC’s licensing rule was based largely on the NRC’s prospects of temporary storage and permanent disposal of nuclear waste.

This week, the NRC stated that it was no longer issuing licenses for nuclear plants until it tackled the issues raised by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in its June decision.

In rendering its decision, the D.C. Circuit focused on the inability of establishing a permanent waste disposal repository at the Yucca Mountain nuclear facility. Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit denied a bid to compel the NRC to render a decision on the license application of the Yucca Mountain facility.

In it's June decision, the court pointed out that the failure to establish a repository anywhere, let alone the twenty year effort at the Yucca Mountain facility alone, demonstrated that the establishment of such a repository was theoretical, at best.

As a result, the spent fuel risked being stored at the reactor sites permanently, a prospect which could come with severe environmental consequences. The NRC had an obligation, the court noted, to evaluate these risks associated with the failure to establish a proper repository.

The NRC's decision to hold off licensing currently affects nine construction and operating licenses, eight license renewals, one operating license, and one early site permit.

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