Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waste Confidence Decision Update

From the Federal Register:

Although the proposed updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule did not consider some of these recent developments, the Commission has assumed, for the purposes of these updates, that YM would not be built. Even so, the new YM developments are pertinent. The Commission believes that the updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule reflect the uncertainty regarding the timing of the availability of a geologic repository for SNF and HLW. The Commission, as a separate action, has directed the staff to develop a plan for a longer-term rulemaking and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the environmental impacts and safety of long-term SNF and HLW storage beyond 120 years (SRM-SECY-09-0090; ADAMS Accession Number ML102580229). This analysis will go well beyond the current analysis that supports at least 60 years of post-licensed life storage with eventual disposal in a deep geologic repository. The Commission believes that a more expansive analysis is appropriate because it will provide additional information (beyond the reasonable assurance the Commission is recognizing in the current rulemaking) on whether spent fuel can be safely stored for a longer time, if necessary. This analysis could reduce the frequency with which the Commission must, as a practical matter, consider waste storage capabilities. The staff's new review will require an analysis and, to some extent, a forecast of the safety and environmental impacts of storage for extended periods of time beyond that currently recognized in 10 CFR 51.23 and the Waste Confidence Decision. While storage of spent fuel for 60 years beyond licensed life has been shown through experience or analyses to be safe and not to have a significant environmental impact, the proposed technical analysis will go well beyond the time frame of existing requirements.

Even though the Commission has not determined whether this particular analysis will result in a different conclusion concerning the environmental impacts of extended spent fuel storage, the Commission believes that this unprecedented long-term review should be accompanied by an EIS. Preparing an EIS will ensure that the agency considers these longer-term storage issues from an appropriate perspective. The Commission has therefore decided to exercise its discretionary authority under 10 CFR 51.20(a)(2) and is directing the staff to prepare a draft EIS to accompany the proposed rule developed as a result of this longer-term analysis. The updates to the Waste Confidence Decision in this document and the final rule published in this issue of the Federal Register rely on the best information currently available to the Commission and therefore are separate from this long-term initiative. The updates to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule are not dependent upon the staff completing any action outside the scope of these revisions to the Waste Confidence Decision and Rule.

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