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Thu12182014

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Nuclear reactor construction and operating licenses in U.S. frozen

Nuclear reactor construction and operating licenses in U.S. frozen
Included in the 19 are nine construction and operating licenses, eight license renewals, one operating license, and one early site permit.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission put a hold on at least 19 final reactor licensing decisions until it completes a rulemaking action on the environmental impacts of highly radioactive nuclear waste in the form of spent or “used” reactor fuel storage and disposal.

Included in the 19 are nine construction and operating licenses, eight license renewals, one operating license, and one early site permit.

The action was done in response to a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals on the landmark Waste Confidence Rule.

“The reactors awaiting construction licenses weren't going to be built anytime soon even without the court decision or today's N.R.C. action,” said former N.R.C. commissioner Peter Bradford. “Falling demand, cheaper alternatives and runaway nuclear costs had doomed their near-term prospects well before the recent court decision.”

The commission’s decision came after a June 18, 2012 petition filed by 24 groups urging it to respond to the court ruling by freezing final licensing decisions. The groups then praised the move, noting that most reactor projects were being sidetracked by the huge problems facing the industry – including an “inability to control” runaway costs, and the availability of “far less expensive” energy alternatives.

"This commission’s decision halts all final licensing decisions – but not the licensing proceedings themselves,” said Diane Curran, an attorney representing some of the groups. “[The decision] would last until N.R.C. completes a thorough study of the environmental impacts of storing and disposing of spent nuclear fuel.”

In June, the court rejected the N.R.C rule that permitted licensing and re-licensing of nuclear reactors, which was based on the supposition that either the commission will find a way to dispose of spent reactor fuel generated by reactors in the future when it becomes “necessary,” or that spent fuel can be stored safely at reactor sites.

Another decision to minimize the risks of leaks or fires from spent fuel stored in reactor pools during future storage was rejected, as the commission failed to demonstrate that the future impacts would be insignificant. – EcoSeed Staff



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