US Nuclear Regulators Freeze 19 Power Plant Licensing Decisions, After Court Ruling on Waste Storage

Montgomery County Planning Commission/CC BY-SA 2.0

A US Court of Appeals ruling saying that spent nuclear fuel stored at nuclear power plants "poses a dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk" has prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt all pending licensing decisions, ENS reports.

Affected are 9 construction and operating licenses, 8 license renewals, 1 operating license, and 1 early site permit.

The NRC order says:

We are now considering all available options for resolving the waste confidence issue, which could include generic or site-specific NRC actions or some combination of both. We have not yet determined a course of action. [...] This determination extends just to final license issuance; all licensing reviews and proceedings should continue to move forward.

The court ruling that brought a halt to US licensing decisions for nuclear power plants stems from an action brought about the New York State Attorney General over the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, 38 miles north of New York City and up for relicensing in 2013. One of the three reactors at Indian Point is already permanently shut down, with the remaining two reaching the end of their initial 40-year operating licenses.

Analysis of the impact of an accident at Indian Point shows that if an event on the scale of the Fukushima disaster were to occur, it would be 10-100 times more costly than the $60 billion estimated price tag for that nuclear disaster, in addition to forcing the evacuation of millions of people in the most densely populated part of the United States.

The same analysis shows that should Indian Point be shut down the region would not need to bring extra electricity generation online to replace it until 2020, due to surplus power capacity in surrounding regions.

Tags: Nuclear Power | United States