Issuance of the revised final Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule will be delayed until at least early October, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced on Thursday. 

The NRC cited “time lost” and a “lapse of appropriations” during the October 2013 government shutdown, which has forced the federal regulatory body to “reschedule several public meeting and extend the public comment period” on the draft versions of the rule and an associated generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) by nearly a month.

Last updated in 2010, the NRC’s Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rulemakes a generic determination that spent nuclear fuel can be stored safely and without significant environmental impacts for a certain period of time after a nuclear power plant permanently shuts down.

However, in June 2012 the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that some aspects of the 2010 Waste Confidence rule update did not satisfy the NRC’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and it vacated that rule. That prompted the NRC, in August 2012,to defer all final decisions on license applications until after a final revision of the Waste Confidence Decision and Temporary Storage Rule is issued. Later, the commission directed staff to complete the GEIS and a revised rule no later than September 2014.

In September 2013, the NRC issued a proposed rule, concluding that storage in used fuel pools is feasible for 60 years after the licensed life of a reactor and in dry casks for indefinite periods, assuming that dry storage systems can be replaced every 100 years.

But on Thursday, the NRC said the new schedule envisions publication of the rule and GEIS no later than Oct. 3, 2014.

The impact of the delay is uncertain. Only one reactor’s operating license has or will expire before September 2014: Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point Unit 2. The Buchanan, N.Y.–unit’s license expired on Sept. 28, 2013, but the NRC allowed the reactor to enter a period of “timely renewal.” That meant the reactor’s operators were able to implement a provision of the congressionally passed Administrative Procedure Act that allows licensees who request a renewed license at least five years before expiration of the current license to operate under the existing license until the NRC completes its review and reaches a decision on a renewal request. Entergy had submitted its application for renewal in April 2007, more than six years prior to the license expiration.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)