In response to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to vacate its rule regarding long-term storage of nuclear waste, New York v. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, No. 11-1045 (D.C. Cir. 6/8/12), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC ) has agreed to suspend issuance of licenses until it resolves the issues the court identified. In re Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Project, LLC, No. 52-016-COL (NRC 8/7/12). Given the U.S. Department of Energy’s abandonment of the proposed Yucca Mountain storage site, the court vacated NRC ’s determinations that permanent safe storage for spent nuclear fuel would be available “when necessary” in the future and that spent fuel could be stored safely beyond a reactor’s life using a spent fuel pool and on- or off-site dry cask systems.  

NRC ’s decision to suspend issuance of permits covers more than 20 pending permit actions. It does not suspend processing of applications for new nuclear plants or renewal licenses for existing plants, but does prevent issuance of a final permit in those matters for the time being. According to the commission, it is considering all available options to resolve issues of waste confidence and may pursue a generic approach or implement site-specific actions relating to waste confidence. NRC has also confirmed that it will solicit public comments for any generic determinations, which would be made in an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. Any case-by-case decisions could be challenged using existing NRC appeal mechanisms.