The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has resumed issuing license renewals for nuclear power plants, ending its two-year hiatus.
Initial licenses are issued by NRC to commercial power plants for up to 40 years. Owners are then offered the option to renew their licenses every 20 years following this initial period. Renewal is based on several factors including compliance with NRC regulations, particularly waste confidence, which is the ability of a nuclear facility to safely manage and dispose of its waste.
In 2011, the waste depository program at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was terminated. Then, in June 2012, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down certain provisions of NRC’s Waste Confidence Rule, specifically stating that “NRC should have analyzed the environmental consequences of never building a permanent waste repository.” As a result of the ruling, NRC suspended its licensing program altogether even though plants continued submitting requests for renewal.
More than two years later, on Sept. 18, NRC issued a revised Continued Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel rule, paving the way for revival of its licensing program.
NRC is currently reviewing the applications of 17 nuclear reactors, including plants whose initial licenses expired during the hiatus. (NRC rules allow for continued operation of plants, while it completes a review, as long as the application is submitted five years prior to expiration.)