A panel of administrative judges at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday rejected all petitions for evidentiary hearings to contest Holtec International’s license application for a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in southeastern New Mexico.
The three-member Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ruled that only three of six petitioning groups proved standing to participate in a hearing. But none of the roughly 50 contentions filed by all of the organizations made the cut, making the issue of standing moot.
“The judges held that the contentions either were not relevant to the application or did not establish a genuine dispute with aspects of the application,” the NRC said in a press release.
All the organizations can appeal the decision to the commission itself. They could then further appeal a negative decision by the commission in federal court.
Following the decision, Holtec said it remains on track for a 2020 decision from the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards on its March 2017 application for a 40-year license to store 8,680 metric tons of used fuel underground in Lea County, N.M. With regulatory approval and license extensions, the facility ultimately could hold up to 173,000 metric tons for as long as 120 years.
The petitioning groups challenging the license application, broadly on legal, environmental, and safety concerns, were: the Sierra Club; Beyond Nuclear; a coalition of environmental organizations led by Don’t Waste Michigan; the Alliance for Environmental Strategies; local oil and gas interests Fasken Land and Minerals and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners; and used fuel management company NAC International, which is supporting a separate license application for a storage facility in West Texas.
Beyond Nuclear said it would appeal the decision to the commission. It has also sued in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to quash the entire license application. An attorney for the Sierra Club declined to comment Tuesday, while the other petitioners did not respond to queries.