RadWaste Monitor Vol. 14 No. 37
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RadWaste Monitor
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September 24, 2021

Texas Files Suit Over Interim Storage Site

By Benjamin S. Weiss

Texas started legal proceedings this week aimed at overturning the Nuclear Regulatory’s Commission’s decision to license a commercially operated interim storage site for spent nuclear fuel in the Lone Star state.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, alongside Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), asked a judge in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the license NRC granted to Interim Storage Partners (ISP) for its proposed interim storage site in Andrews County, Texas, according to the filing dated Thursday. The filing asks the court to declare ISP’s license unlawful and toss it.

There isn’t much in the way of an argument in Thursday’s filing, but If the court decides to hear Paxton’s case, the petitioners could lay out the heart of their argument in subsequent filings. At deadline Friday for RadWaste Monitor, though, there hadn’t been any new movement on the case, according to the court docket.

NRC granted ISP its license Sep. 14. The agency’s decision came in spite of vehement opposition from the Lone Star State and other stakeholders. In Washington, Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) lambasted NRC for its decision Sep. 14, and Andrews County Judge Charlie Falcon told RadWaste Monitor last week that he plans to rally Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (both R-Texas) to the cause. 

All of this as Gov. Abbott signed a new law Sep. 9 serving as a check on the proposed site, banning the storage of high-level nuclear waste including spent fuel in the state.

Texas isn’t the first state to challenge NRC in court over interim storage. The agency is currently awaiting judgement in the U.S. District Court for New Mexico in state attorney general Hector Balderas’s case opposing Holtec International’s own planned interim storage site in Lea County, N.M. Balderas has argued that the Holtec site would place an unfair burden on the state and that a commission license would violate the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) — a notion that both NRC and some nuclear industry experts reject.

NRC has yet to make a licensing decision for Holtec’s proposed site. The agency has said that it would make a final decision in January 2022.