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Government Shutdown Has NRC Set To Furlough Most Of Its Staff

If the partial federal government shutdown continues beyond Thursday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be operating with a skeleton staff. As a result, the NRC review process for the relicensing of one of the reactors at the Indian Point nuclear power plant could be delayed.

Some 90 percent of the NRC staff was to have been furloughed beginning Monday, but some leftover money is keeping the agency funded until Thursday. That’s according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The license for Westchester County-based Indian Point Two expired September 28, but the paperwork has been in place for the reactor to continue operating until the NRC renders a decision, which is several months away. The license for Indian Point Three expires in December 2015.

In a separate but related matter, the NRC may have to postpone scheduled public meetings on a proposed rule and environmental study called waste confidence. The proposed rule was developed to replace a provision in the NRC’s environmental regulations that was updated in 2010 but struck down last year by the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The ruling directed the NRC to develop a new rule and generic environmental impact statement on the extended storage of spent fuel beyond a reactor’s licensed life. Just a few of the NRC’s public meetings are completed. The bulk are scheduled for the rest of October and beginning of November, with one in Westchester.

He adds:

There are several components factoring into an NRC decision on relicensing Indian Point. One involves a water quality permit. In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied this permit for Indian Point, a permit that is necessary for relicensing. Entergy is contesting that denial, and DEC administrative law judges are reviewing the case.

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