The antinuclear organization Beyond Nuclear has filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting a review of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to deny its petition against Holtec International’s application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.
In October 2018 and April 2020, the NRC rejected arguments by Beyond Nuclear and other groups against Holtec’s license application for the CISF. The groups contend that granting the license would violate the Nuclear Waste Policy Act because it would involve the Department of Energy’s taking title to the fuel before a permanent repository was built.
The argument: “Since it contemplates that the federal government would become the owner of the spent fuel during transportation to and storage at its CISF, Holtec’s license application should have been dismissed at the outset,” Beyond Nuclear argues. The NRC, however, disagreed that the license would violate the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, as it does not prevent Holtec from contracting directly with nuclear power plant owners for the receipt and storage of used fuel.
As the NRC had previously issued a license for a private interim spent fuel storage facility, it may be difficult for Beyond Nuclear’s argument to gain traction in the appeals court. That license was issued in 2006 to Private Fuel Storage for a facility to be located in Skull Valley, Utah. The company abandoned plans for the facility, however, after the Department of Interior refused to authorize train access to the site.
Holtec submitted its license application to the NRC in March 2017, and a notice of opportunity to request a hearing on the application was published in July 2018. Holtec intends to store up to 100,000 metric tons of spent fuel at the CISF for an initial licensing period of 40 years.