Recently, the NRC staff held a public meeting to collect comments on the scope of the environmental impact statement (EIS) that will support the rulemaking to update the Waste Confidence rule to address the issues remanded to the agency by the D.C. Circuit in N.Y. v. NRC. Several stakeholders offered comments regarding the scenarios and alternatives that should be considered in the EIS, the timing of the NRC staff's work, and what existing information should be relied upon. Some commenters expressed the view that a generic EIS on Waste Confidence was impossible, arguing that site-specific analyses are required to meaningfully assess the environmental impacts of long-term onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel. Of course, the Commission has already given direction to the NRC staff to develop a generic EIS, reserving site-specific analyses to support licensing decisions only in rare circumstances.
Comments diverged on the timeframe for the generic EIS – currently due to be published in final form in August 2014. Public interest groups expressed concern that the schedule was too compressed and would not allow the agency to conduct a fulsome analysis, while the nuclear industry supported the schedule, noting that a substantial record already exists on Waste Confidence issues (including the issues specifically remanded by the D.C. Circuit). In addition, major licensing decisions will be held up until Waste Confidence is resolved. Industry representatives advocated that the NRC rely in its analysis on the "no action alternative" assessment in the Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain EIS.
The NRC staff was mostly in a listening mode, and did not respond to comments at the meeting. Public comments on the scope of the EIS are currently due January 2, 2013, and staff's scoping summary report will be issued in Spring 2013.