The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said this week it must comply with a federal court ruling that said it must report on the environmental effect of problems with waste storage, including the impact of failing to create a long-term storage facility, CNN Money reported. The commission says it believes waste is now being stored safely.
There are 16 nuclear facilities that need permits for new construction and 14 up for permit renewal. The 104 operating nuclear plants now generate about 18 percent of U.S. electrical power and renewable methods, including hydroelectric dams, about 14 percent with the rest coming from coal and gas-fired plants.
While industry analysts say the NRC can do the study the court requires in a few months, environmentalists say the problem is more difficult.
"The court is ordering them to do this analysis that should have been done a long time ago," said Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "The more information there is, the more ammunition there is to make changes to the safety regulations."
Long-term storage will require action from Congress on a politically difficult issue. The UCS and other environmental groups also want changes to current methods of storing waste at nuclear plants.