According to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC ) failed to conduct a sufficiently thorough analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NE PA) when it issued its “waste confidence rule,” which allowed spent nuclear fuel to be stored on site at power plants for up to 60 years. N.Y. v. NRC, No. 11-1045 (D.C. Cir. 6/8/12). New York, Connecticut and Vermont filed a petition to review the rule in February 2011. Several environmental groups later also filed petitions challenging the rule.
Finding that NRC failed to consider the possibility that a permanent storage facility would not be available “when necessary,” the court vacated the rule and remanded it to NRC for further proceedings. The court noted that the federal government abandoned work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in 2010, and the possibility exists that spent nuclear fuel will “seemingly be stored on site at nuclear power plants on a permanent basis,” an alternative the court found intolerable.