In a recent ruling, the three-member panel found that Southern Nuclear must develop a better long-term storage plan before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can issue a permit for it to build the proposed nuclear reactors.
"Basically, what it says is that they don't think there is enough information for the staff to make an adequate determination as to whether the waste plan meets the criteria," said Roger Hannah, a commission spokesman.
The issue of low-level waste was raised by environmental groups opposed to the plant's expansion and involves the recent exclusion of many states -- including Georgia -- from a low-level waste burial ground in Barnwell, S.C.
The Barnwell site historically accepted waste from 37 states. In July the site limited its facility to waste from South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"They (the board) basically said Southern Nuclear has not adequately addressed the disposal of low-level wastes because the Barnwell facility is closed to Georgia plants," Mr. Hannah said.
The board wants the applicant to better explain how radioactive nuclear waste would be managed if a storage site remains unavailable when the new reactors begin operation, said Sara Barczak, the program director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, one of the intervening organizations.
Plant Vogtle has arranged for about 95 percent of its low-level radioactive waste to be sent to Energy Solutions in Utah, said Southern Nuclear spokeswoman Beth Thomas.
"The remainder is safely stored at the plant site until another approved facility is available," she said. "We plan to implement that same management plan for any low-level material that might be generated by units three and four."
The company, she added, believes the board's concerns have been addressed and will withstand further scrutiny by the commission's staff.
The environmental group's contention involving waste disposal is being admitted as part of Southern Nuclear's application for a combined operating license at Vogtle.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will conduct hearings Monday through March 19 in Augusta on Southern Nuclear's application to build two new reactors at Plant Vogtle. The board will hear presentations at 8:30 a.m. Monday and continuing through March 19, as necessary. All sessions will be at the Doubletree Hotel and Convention Center, 2651 Perimeter Parkway.