November 13, 2012
During the summer, a federal court threw out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's "waste confidence" rule. That rule states that the NRC has confidence that radioactive waste can be stored safely essentially forever. But the court said that the lack of progress toward a permanent waste storage site and the NRC's own lack of assessment of the environmental impacts of long-term onsite storage add up to a complete lack of waste confidence.
This was especially important because the waste confidence rule underpins all of the NRC's licensing decisions: without demonstrated confidence on radioactive waste, the NRC cannot license new reactors or issue license renewals for existing reactors.
The NRC responded by saying it would re-examine the issue, and declared a two-year moratorium on new reactor licenses and license extensions while it does so. That moratorium is currently in effect.
On October 25, 2012, the NRC published a Notice in the Federal Register announcing the official beginning of that re-examination process. This initial step seeks "scoping" comments for preparation of the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). In other words, the NRC is asking: what issues should this waste confidence EIS cover?
But there are a couple big problems with this Notice. The biggest is that not only is the Notice vague about the NRC's plans, but it fails to describe (as required by an EIS) possible alternatives to the proposed action. In this case, a possible alternative could--and should--be: no more reactor licensing at all!
On November 8, 25 organizations, including NIRS, sent a letter to the NRC asking the agency to withdraw its Notice and re-submit a more complete version that actually complies with the law. You can see that letter here.
Another problem is the very short period the NRC is allowing for public comments: they are due January 2, 2013, or immediately after the holiday season when just about all of us have family and other obligations and really are trying not to think too much about radioactive waste! This deadline is clearly intended to suppress--not encourage--public comment.
So, here is one thing you can do right now: Tell the NRC to withdraw their Notice, fix it, and resubmit; and tell them to extend the comment period by at least 60 days. You can do that below.
Notes: Everyone can participate in this action. If you would like to forward this Action page on Facebook, Twitter, etc., please do so using the icons at the top right before sending in your comment. As usual, you can edit the comment letter to reflect your own concerns.
NIRS (Nuclear Information and Resource Service)