Monday, June 11, 2012

Federal ruling could give state officials basis for denying Entergy license to operate Vermont Yankee

June 11, 2012
A decision issued Friday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals could change the game for nuclear power plants for spent nuclear fuel.

What the ruling means for the Vermont Yankee facility and ongoing efforts to shutter the plant is up in the air, but some legal experts say the decision could give the state a more solid basis on which to deny an operating license.
In its decision, the court found that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency in charge of regulating nuclear safety, did not adequately analyze environmental effects when it determined in a ruling that spent nuclear fuel can be stored on site for 60 years after a plant’s licence expires. The court also found the agency failed to address the future effect of not establishing a spent nuclear fuel repository when it said a geologic repository for that radioactive waste would be available “when necessary.”
Vermont was a party in the lawsuit over the so-called Waste Confidence Decision along with the New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell said the decision underscores the federal government’s lack of planning for a comprehensive solution to the waste created by nuclear power plants.
“The court questions whether it is reasonable for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to be issuing new licenses or relicensing plants given the federal government has dropped the ball on the storage of spent nuclear fuel,” Sorrell said.
In many cases, spent fuel stored in dry casks or pools, dubbed “temporary storage” has been used for decades longer than originally anticipated, and the federal government has failed to come up with a solution to the problem.
The U.S. Department of Energy recently withdrew its application for a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, a plan that had been in the works for 20 years. The court said that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to do an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of the temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel in light of the fact that there is no national plan.
The court’s decision reads: “The lack of progress on a permanent repository has caused considerable uncertainty regarding the environmental effects of temporary SNF storage and the reasonableness of continuing to license and relicense nuclear reactors...”
more: Federal ruling could give state officials basis for denying Entergy license to operate Vermont Yankee

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