Reports: NRC freezes new reactors, license renewals

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted not issue final decisions on granting licenses to build new nuclear power plants or to grant license renewals to existing ones, pending resolution of the NRC's waste confidence rule

Washington, D.C., August 7, 2012 — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted not to issue final decisions on granting licenses to build new nuclear power plants or to grant license renewals to existing ones, pending resolution of the NRC's waste confidence rule, which was overturned by a court.

NRC commissioners ordered reviews of license applications to continue, however, and the agency's licensing board will not accept or deny any new challenges that might be filed during the proceedings related to nuclear waste storage issues.

According to reports, this decision by the NRC does not impact previous license issuance — for example the combined operating license granted to Southern Co.'s Plant Vogtle, or the 20-year renewal of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant's operating license.

This freeze stems from the June 8 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit to strike down the agency's new waste confidence rule. The ruling held that the NRC is required to conduct an environmental study of the rule, and had failed to properly examine future dangers and key consequences of storing used nuclear fuel at power reactor sites for extended periods.

The court's petition did not require the NRC to halt its consideration of applications for new reactors and licenses — only that the agency postpone its final decisions on such applications until it has settled the waste confidence rule by completing an environmental review.

Applications for new reactors and license renewals for 28 nuclear units have been filed with NRC, according to the petition's list of pending applications.

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