NRC Decommissioning Plan 'Arbitrary and Capricious'

By Robyn Hagan Cain on February 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Do you really want the State of New Jersey handling the decommissioning of a nuclear facility? If you've ever watched an episode of Jersey Shore, or Real Housewives of New Jersey, or Jerseylicious, you would have to have doubts, right?.

And you wouldn't be alone.

This week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's proposed transfer of authority over nuclear waste disposal at the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation to New Jersey was arbitrary and capricious. This is the second time that the appellate court has put the kabosh on the NRC's plans for the site, The Associated Press reports.

Shieldalloy made metal alloys from 1955 until 1998 at its Newfield facility. The manufacturing process generated radioactive byproducts.

In the early 1990s, Shieldalloy began consulting with the NRC on the development of a proposal to decommission the facility and dispose of its radioactive materials on-site. The consultations stretched on for years, and the NRC rejected or modified four different decommissioning plans in the process.

The NRC ruled in 2011 that New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection would be in charge of the cleanup at site. (Jersey jokes aside, the state's DEP has stricter regulations for handling of the nuclear waste than the federal government. Go Jersey.) While the D.C. Circuit found no legal error in the Commission's decommissioning order, the appellate court concluded that its "inability to understand the key regulatory materials purportedly guiding the agency's exercise of control over decommissioning requires another remand."

The question before the D.C. Circuit this week: What rules govern the means by which the owner of a licensed nuclear facility may decommission that facility and dispose of its radioactive materials? Though the NRC claimed that it had taken a clear and consistent approach to answering this question, the clarity and consistency were not apparent to the appellate court.

The decision leaves questions about whether the nuclear materials at the site will be shipped to Utah or remain in the Garden State, according to the AP.

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