Because the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a part of the federal bureaucracy, it can make even groundbreaking news seem mundane.

Take this understated sentence in its ruling Aug. 7 delaying the final issuance of any nuclear permits for existing or new power plants:

“Waste confidence undergirds certain agency licensing decisions, in particular new reactor licensing and reactor licensing renewal.”

Translation: The country cannot continue to talk about building new nuclear plants without figuring out what it is going to do with the dangerous waste that literally is stacking up at sites all over the country.

That means that because Americans can have no confidence that the NRC has seriously dealt with the growing problem of nuclear waste, the NRC will stop making the problem worse by extending nuclear plant licenses.

The moratorium will remain until there is some reasonable plan to dispose of waste that “will remain dangerous for time spans seemingly beyond human comprehension.” Those are the words of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled in June that the NRC’s decision to allow nuclear plants to continue to store waste at their facilities for an additional 30 years (beyond the 30 years that were envisioned originally) needed further study. The NRC’s decision to delay issuing any licensing permits is a response to that court ruling.

The actions by the Court of Appeals and the NRC don’t guarantee that our nation’s politicians or nuclear providers will get their acts together and once and for all deal with the nuclear waste. But it puts that waste where it belongs, front and center in the debate over the future of nuclear power in this country.