The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) proposed consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel and greater-than-Class C (GTCC) waste in West Texas. Based on its environmental review of the CISF, the NRC staff issued a preliminary recommendation that an NRC license be granted to ISP to construct and operate the CISF to temporarily store up to 5,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU) in commercial spent fuel and GTCC waste for a licensing period of 40 years.
The application: ISP, a joint venture of Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists (WCS), in June 2018 submitted to the NRC its revised license application for the CISF, which is to be located at WCS’s existing disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County, Texas. An earlier WCS license application for the project was put on hold in early 2017 due to cost concerns.
Similar to Holtec International’s plans for its proposed CISF in nearby southeastern New Mexico, ISP intends to license the facility in phases. Over a period of 20 years, ISP would seek subsequent license amendments that, if approved, would authorize an additional 5,000 MTU for each of seven expansion phases of the proposed CISF, for a total capacity of 40,000 MTU completed over eight phases. According to the NRC, the planned amendments for the seven expansion phases are not part of the NRC’s current licensing review, but the draft EIS considers the impacts of the entire expanded CISF. During the first phase, spent fuel and GTCC waste would be stored in six dual-purpose, canister-based dry cask storage systems licensed by TN Americas, a subsidiary of Orano, and NAC International.
In addition to the EIS, the NRC is conducting a parallel analysis and review of the technical safety aspects of the ISP CISF application. This effort, scheduled to conclude during the second quarter of 2021, will result in a safety evaluation report that, along with the EIS, will form the basis for the issuance of a license by the NRC.
Environmental impacts: According to the NRC staff’s analysis of the environmental impacts of building, operating, and decommissioning the CISF, for most resource areas the impacts would be small, meaning that they are not detectable or are so minor that they would neither destabilize nor noticeably alter any important attribute of the resource. Resource areas found to have a small impact are land use, transportation, geology and soils, surface water, groundwater, air quality, noise, historic and cultural resources, visual and scenic resources, public and occupational health, and waste management.
Ecology resources would experience a small (to wildlife) to moderate (to vegetation) impact. The NRC staff also found that there would be a small to moderate beneficial impact to socioeconomics, due to new businesses, residents, and tax revenues. For environmental justice, the staff found no disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects for minority and low-income populations.
Public comments: The NRC will open a public comment period on the draft EIS following publication in the Federal Register. Comments received on the draft EIS during the comment period will be considered and addressed in a final version of the EIS, which the NRC plans to issue in May 2021.
The draft EIS was posted to the NRC Web-based ADAMS document site on May 4 and can be found using accession number ML20122A220.