On December 20, 2011, NRC published a draft report that layed out its plans to evaluate the environmental impacts associated with a much longer period of SNF storage than contemplated under the existing Waste Confidence Decision and Rule. SNF stored either at the site of a nuclear power plant or off-site has been evaluated for a period of 60 years after the nuclear power plant shuts down. Since a nuclear power plant is licensed for an initial 40-year term, and its license can be renewed for another 20-year term, under the current approach SNF could be in storage for up to 120 years. NRC now wants to increase that time limit to 300 years.
The Waste Confidence Decision and Rule was first issued in 1984, revised in 1990, revised again in 1999, and most recently re-issued in 2010. But none of those Decisions included an environmental impact statement (EIS). Why? Because NRC concluded that storage of SNF for at least 60 years beyond the licensed life of a nuclear power plant would not have significant environmental impacts. NRC is now considering a four-fold increase of this time frame – 300 years of storage would include 240 years after plant operation ended. NRC still does not believe that there would be any significant environmental impacts associated with this long-term storage. However, an EIS will be prepared in order to provide the NRC and the public with a comprehensive assessment of the generic environmental impacts associated with SNF storage for this longer period of time.
The Waste Confidence Decision and Rule have been reconsidered by NRC every five to ten years. As part of the planned EIS for the 300-Year Waste Confidence this process will change and perhaps stop unless the “no action alternative” is adopted. If no change is made to the 60-year period of SNF storage after plant operation (the no action alternative), which is already encompassed within the current Waste Confidence Decision and Rule, then NRC would continue to re-examine both the Decision and the Rule for updates every five to ten years.
Timeline of Near-Term Activities
|December 2010||Publish current version of Waste Confidence Decision and Waste Confidence Rule|
|February 28, 2011||Submit Initial Plan for an EIS|
|September 28, 2011||Public meeting in Rockville, Maryland|
|October 4, 2011October 6, 2011||Public meeting in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois andPublic Meeting in San Luis Obispo, California|
|December 13 & 14, 2011||Conduct Public Webinars|
|December 22, 2011||Issue Draft Report for Waste Confidence EIS|
|January 31, 2012||Conduct Public Webinar|
|March 19, 2012||Public comment period on Dec. 2011 draft report closes (period extended from February 17, 2012)|
|April 2012||Publish final report containing background and preliminary assumptions for the EIS for Waste Confidence|
|2012 – 2013||NRC to develop preliminary information to support identification of EIS scope|
|2013||NRC announces (in Federal Register) intent to develop EIS|
|2013 – 2016||Hold public scoping meetings and develop draft EIS, including draft revised Waste Confidence Decision and Rule|
|2017 – 2019||Publish draft EIS and draft revised Waste Confidence Decision and Rule for public comment, address comments received, and issue final EIS and final revised Decision and Rule|