Judges lean toward nuclear regulators in waste storage fight

By Niina H. Farah | 03/06/2024 06:40 AM EST

The D.C. Circuit heard arguments Tuesday on NRC’s approval of a license for a temporary storage facility in New Mexico.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters in Rockville, Maryland. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

A federal appeals court appeared skeptical of claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted outside its authority when it approved a license for a temporary storage facility in southeastern New Mexico.

During oral arguments Tuesday, judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit pressed attorneys for an anti-nuclear group to show how the agency’s 2020 license to store spent fuel from commercial reactors was contrary to federal law.

NRC granted the license application — which referenced accepting spent fuel from commercial reactors or Department of Energy-owned waste — in anticipation that Congress would change existing law to allow the Holtec International facility to one day accept the waste from DOE.


“What can you point to show that you can’t have a conditional license?” asked Neomi Rao, a Trump pick. “We have upheld conditional licenses in a lot of other cases.”