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June 8, 2012

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795

60-Year Federal Storage Standard Rejected

(12/P67) TRENTON - AA federal appeals court today upheld a challenge by the Christie Administration, in a joint legal action with New York, Vermont, and Connecticut, to a federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission rule that extended the time allowed for storing spent nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants from 30 years to a new standard of 60 years past the licensed life of a reactor.

The U.S. Appellate Court for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the NRC’s proposed extension to 60 years constitutes a major federal action that requires either an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant environmental impact.

The Court ruled that the NRC’s assessment of risks from spent nuclear fuel is deficient because it did not consider the potential environmental impacts that could occur if a permanent federal disposal site is not created. It also found that the NRC failed to consider future dangers and key consequences stemming from storing spent fuel at nuclear plants for 60 years.

As a result, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the Temporary Storage and Waste Confidence rules announced by the NRC last year.

“This is an important victory for the people of New Jersey, on an issue that has significant public health and safety implications, and also the potential to negatively impact the state’s environment,’’ said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. “The Christie Administration believes the federal government has an obligation to develop a permanent plan for nuclear waste storage. It cannot avoid a solution just by extending the time period in which radioactive waste can remain on sites in New Jersey and across the nation.’’

The failure of the NRC to conduct an adequate environmental impact statement was troubling, added Commissioner Martin.

In its court challenge, New Jersey contended the NRC acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in developing the new 60-year rule, and failed to perform an environmental impact statement as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

New Jersey has four operating nuclear reactors that are affected by NRC rules: Oyster Creek in Lacey Township, Hope Creek in Lower Alloways Creek, and two units at the Salem Nuclear Generating Station, also in Lower Alloways Creek. The NRC’s 60-year rule would apply to radioactive waste stored at each of those plants after they close.

The DEP and the Exelon Corp., which owns and operates Oyster Creek, entered into an Administrative Consent Order agreement in December, 2010 that calls for Oyster Creek to cease operations by the end of 2019, which is 10 years earlier than its NRC license permits operation. That agreement allows Exelon to store its spent nuclear fuel on site until the federal Department of Energy accepts it for permanent storage at a geological repository.

The NRC, however, has provided no assurances that such a storage facility will be available. The federal government in 2010 announced it was ending consideration of creating a spent nuclear fuel depository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

The NRC in 1990 initiated its “Waste Confidence Rule,’’ finding that spent fuel from nuclear power plants could be stored safely and without significant environmental impacts for at least 30 years beyond the licensed life of a nuclear power plant. The NRC has subsequently issued an expanded 60-year rule.

View the D.C. District Court ruling at:
View the DEP’s filing at:
View the NRC’s rule at:!documentDetail;D=NRC-2008-0404-0166



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Last Updated: June 8, 2012