When it comes to policy decisions related to the managing of nuclear waste, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) holds a pretty big pen. The NRC can suspend the licensing of future nuclear power reactors until nuclear waste is managed. It can also consider the safety of the long-term geologic repository for the United States’ nuclear waste. Most recently, we covered the release of the Safety Evaluation Report Volume 3: Repository Safety After Permanent Closure by the NRC and its implications on nuclear waste management. The report indicated that NRC found the relevant requirements of the regulations are satisfied by Yucca Mountain.
Dr. Allison Macfarlane, the chairman of the NRC, recently announced her decision to leave the organization on January 1, despite over three years remaining in her term. It is unclear why she is departing early, but her dissension on certain issues is well known and her replacement will have a continued responsibility to address multiple issues.
The Continued Storage rule, previously known as the Waste Confidence rule, which allows for indefinite storage of nuclear waste at a reactor is still bringing policy implications of nuclear waste to the forefront of the NRC. Earlier this month, the commission agreed to review the many petitions seeking to have the NRC suspend final licensing of new reactors until concerns over the Continued Storage rule are considered. Though this may not affect any licenses currently being considered, it does hint of a realization of that the storage of nuclear waste may affect future licensing activities. We’ll keep our eyes on this as it proceeds.
Here at the Bipartisan Policy Center, we recognize that the NRC is facing a variety of nuclear waste-related policy challenges. We welcome the conversations and collaborations occurring around the country and at our regional events on this issue.