In his final news conference as chairman speaking at a Platts Energy Podium event, Gregory Jaczko, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said Thursday that the agency may not be able to renew licenses for operating nuclear plants for “a few years” because of a federal court ruling, but the practical impact will be limited.
Jaczko said he expects reactors that have applied for 20-year renewal of their operating licenses will be able to continue to operate while the agency addresses the ruling. Applicants for licenses to build and operate new reactors may see a delay, but very few have decided to build those units in the near term, he added.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last month told the NRC to revisit rules governing the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the nation’s 104 operating reactors. The commission, the court said, failed to conduct an environmental review when it updated its so-called “waste confidence rule” in 2010.
Jaczko also said he remains concerned that post-Fukushima recommendations may not be fully implemented in “an effective timeframe.”
“The last thing that we can allow to have happen is for some lessons to go unimplemented and have some type of incident that could have been prevented,” he said.
There is no agreement among current commissioners about whether the new requirements should be mandatory or simply an enhancement to safety subject to a cost-benefit analysis, Jaczko said. If such an analysis is allowed, there could be a delay in making the improvements.