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Court Upholds Nuclear Storage Rule

Entergy is storing spent nuclear fuel near the closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

A federal appeals court says spent nuclear fuel can remain on site after a nuclear reactor closes.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ruled against the state of Vermont, which joined three other states in challenging the rule that allows the long term storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, along with two environmental groups filed the court challenge.

The three-judge panel found that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission complied with all environmental laws when it wrote its Continued Storage Rule.

The court said it was up to Congress to change the rules on long-term nuclear fuel storage.

Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia says the state will continue working with the Vermont delegation to pressure the federal government to find an offsite location for spent nuclear fuel.

"Obviously we're disappointed with the ruling," Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia said. "We think the interim dry cask storage option makes sense for the interim, but we also think the NRC and the Department of Energy need to fulfill their promises of coming up with a long-term solution of storing spent fuel."

The NRC originally wrote a rule on long term storage of nuclear fuel in 2010.

Vermont and the same group of states challenged that rule and won.

The NRC then updated its rules to more closely align with the National Environmental Policy Act, and filed the new rule in 2014.

The same states challenged the new rule, but the D.C. Circuit Court last week sided with the NRC.

“Because we hold that the NRC did not engage in arbitrary or capricious decision-making, we deny the petitions for review,” the judges wrote.

Entergy Corp. wants to store spent nuclear fuel in dry cask storage in Vernon, at the shuttered Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The U.S. Department of Energy does not have a long term repository for spent nuclear fuel.

Update 10:12 a.m. 6/09/16  This story was updated to include a response from Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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