Spent fuel facility receives NRC license days after Texas moves to ban it

September 14, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license to Interim Storage Partners (ISP), a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano USA, to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas. Issued on September 13, the license comes just four days after Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a bill to block such a facility from being built in the state.

The license is the second one issued by the NRC for a consolidated storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. The first was issued to Private Fuel Storage in 2006, but the facility was never constructed. The NRC is currently reviewing an application from Holtec International for a similar facility proposed for Lea County, New Mexico. A decision on that application is currently expected in January 2022.

The ISP facility: ISP intends to build the storage facility on property adjacent to Waste Control Specialists’ low-level radioactive waste disposal site already operating under a Texas license. The NRC license authorizes ISP 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.

The company has said that it plans to expand the facility in seven additional phases, up to a total capacity of 40,000 metric tons of fuel. Each expansion would require a license amendment, with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.

The licensing: ISP submitted a revised license application to the NRC in July 2018. Waste Control Specialists had previously submitted an application for an interim storage facility in conjunction with Areva and NAC International but withdrew that application in 2017.

This past July 29, the NRC issued its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the ISP facility with the recommendation by agency staff that a license be granted. The issuance of the license comes 30 days after the Environmental Protection Agency published notice in the August 13 Federal Register confirming its receipt of the FEIS.

Along with the license, the NRC is issuing a safety evaluation report, documenting the agency’s technical review of the facility. Information about the license application and the NRC staff’s reviews is available on the NRC website. The NRC said that licensing documents will be made available on the NRC site, as well.

The Texas ban: Texas House Bill 7, authored by Rep. Brooks Landgraf (R., 81st Dist.) of Odessa, in whose district the proposed facility would be located, bars the transportation and disposal or storage of high-level radioactive waste in Texas. The bill also prohibits state agencies from issuing construction, storm water, or pollution permits for facilities that are licensed by the NRC to store high-level radioactive waste. Exemptions are made for currently or formerly operating nuclear power reactors and research and test reactors operating on university campuses.

The law went into effect immediately upon being signed by Gov. Abbott on September 9.

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