Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NRC Scoping Meetings For New Waste Confidence Directorate EIS

Oct 24: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Waste Confidence Directorate announced it will hold two public meetings November 14 at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., to discuss the scope of the Agency's review of the environmental impacts of extended interim storage of spent nuclear fuel, including impacts associated with never building a permanent spent fuel repository and risks from spent fuel pool leaks and fires. The public scoping meetings are the initial step in developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) to support a revised "waste confidence" decision and rule. The Agency's plan for public outreach to solicit comments on the scope of the EIS includes the November 14 meetings and webinars scheduled for December 5 and 6.

    The waste confidence EIS and rulemaking stem from a game-changing, June 8 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down the NRC's 2010 waste confidence decision and rule [See WIMS 6/8/12]. On August 7, the Commission issued an Order saying the NRC will not issue licenses dependent on the waste confidence rule -- such as new reactors and early site permits, renewal of existing reactor operating licenses, and renewal of certain spent fuel storage facility licenses -- until the Court's remand is appropriately addressed. On September 6, the Commission directed the staff to develop the environmental study and the revised rule within 24 months [See WIMS 9/6/12].

    Among other things, the Appeals Court ruled, "We recognize that the Commission is in a difficult position given the political problems concerning the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Nonetheless, the Commission's obligations under NEPA require a more thorough analysis than provided for in the WCD [Waste Confidence Decision] Update. We note that the Commission is currently conducting an EIS regarding the environmental impacts of SNF [spent nuclear fuel] storage beyond the sixty-year post-license period at issue in this case, and some or all of the problems here may be addressed in such a rulemaking. In any event, we grant the petitions for review, vacate the WCD Update and TSR [Temporary Storage Rule], and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

    To facilitate public outreach, the Waste Confidence Directorate has established its own page on the NRC website (see link below). The website will be updated regularly with new public documents and information regarding the waste confidence EIS and rule. NRC's Office of Public Affairs will also provide updates on the waste confidence project through social media. Keith McConnell, director of the Waste Confidence Directorate in the NRC's Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards said, "In order to meet our 24-month deadline for this important project, we will work diligently to ensure the public is fully informed and has a chance to provide feedback. We are committed to giving the public meaningful opportunities to participate in this process."

    The November 14 meetings will take place in the Commission Hearing Room in the One White Flint North building of NRC headquarters, at 11555 Rockville Pike. The first will be held from 1-4 PM, and will be webcast with a moderated teleconference line to accommodate interested members of the public unable to attend in person. The second meeting will be held from 9 PM to midnight (6-9 PM Pacific Time) to accommodate people in other time zones. The evening meeting will be by webcast and moderated teleconference only (with no members of the public in attendance in Rockville), and will cover the same material as the earlier meeting. The meetings will be transcribed and the webcasts archived on the NRC website. In addition to the public meetings, the NRC staff will conduct webinars on December 5 from 1-4 PM and December 6 from 9 PM to midnight (both Eastern Time), to explain the staff's progress in developing the scope of the EIS and to accept public comments.

    More information about the scoping process, public meetings and webinars will be included in a Federal Register notice to be published tomorrow and subsequent updates to the waste confidence website. Public comments on the scope of the environmental review will be accepted through January 2. Comments may be submitted through the Federal government's rulemaking website or by mail.

    Access a release from NRC (click here). Access the Waste Confidence website for more information (click here). Access the COMSECY-12-0016 Memo (click here). Access the September 6, 2012 Staff Directive Memo (click here). Access the NRC votes and individual Commissioner comments (click here). Access the complete Appeals Court opinion (click here). [#Haz/Nuclear, #Energy/Nuclear]

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