Morning Briefing - September 14, 2021
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September 14, 2021

NRC Gives its Blessing to Interim Storage in Texas

By ExchangeMonitor

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission opened the door for history Monday when it approved a private company’s application to build what would be the only consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in the U.S..

In a much-anticipated decision Monday, NRC greenlit Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in Andrews County, Texas. ISP, a joint venture between Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists and Orano USA, would build its proposed interim storage site at WCS’s existing low-level waste facility in Andrews.

The federal license “authorizes the company to receive, possess, transfer and store up to 5,000 metric tons of spent fuel and 231.3 metric tons of Greater-Than-Class C low-level radioactive waste for 40 years,” NRC said in a statement Monday. While ISP eventually plans to expand the site’s capacity to up to 40,000 metric tons, each expansion will require a new license amendment, the commission said.

A spokesperson for ISP didn’t return a request for comment by deadline Tuesday for Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.

If it gets built, the ISP site will be the just one of two facilities federally licensed to store the tens of thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel currently stranded at nuclear power plants across the country. 

The proposed Yucca Mountain geologic repository in Nye County, Nev., meanwhile, remains effectively dead after the Barack Obama administration in 2011 pulled its funding following successful political pressure from Nevada’s congressional delegation, including former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the ex-majority leader. The Joe Biden administration’s 2022 budget doesn’t include any new Yucca funding, beyond what’s necessary to guard the site and its demonstration bore. 

NRC has only ever licensed one other private spent fuel facility — the ill-fated Private Fuel Storage site in Utah, which got a federal license in 2006 but was never built.

Although it’s over the federal hurdle, ISP may be in for a fight in the Lone Star State. The proposed interim storage site has faced opposition from a number of Texas stakeholders in recent weeks. 

In Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week signed a law banning the transport and storage of high-level nuclear waste, including spent fuel, in Texas. A coalition of state lawmakers also petitioned NRC last month to reject ISP’s license application, saying that the proposed interim storage site violates federal law — a claim that some nuclear experts contest.

In Andrews, county executives voted unanimously in July to oppose the site after a community meeting at which WCS president David Carlson said there were no “safety or environmental issue[s] with the proposed project.

ISP’s site is one of two such commercial interim storage facilities currently under NRC’s consideration. Holtec International is also planning a similar site in Lea County, N.M. NRC has said it would make a decision on the Holtec site in January.