Challenges to Texas SNF facility filed in federal court

March 23, 2022, 7:09AMRadwaste Solutions

Several antinuclear groups are challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing of Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas, by filing briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 18. The groups appealing the license include Beyond Nuclear, Don’t Waste Michigan (a coalition of seven environmental groups), and Sierra Club.

The NRC granted ISP a license in September 2021, authorizing 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 radioactive waste for 40 years. ISP plans to expand the facility in seven additional phases, up to a total capacity of 40,000 metric tons of fuel.

The claims: Beyond Nuclear claims that the NRC license violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by allowing the Department of Energy to take title of commercial spent fuel before a permanent repository is available.

An Atomic Safety Licensing Board previously dismissed Beyond Nuclear’s contention, saying that it did not raise a genuine dispute with ISP’s license application. In granting the license, the NRC commissioners agreed with the board, adding that the license is not premised on illegal contracts and that ISP could lawfully fulfill the conditions of its license.

Don’t Waste Michigan and Sierra Club, meanwhile, are alleging that in addition to the NWPA and APA violations, the license violates a number of National Environmental Policy Act requirements. The groups are asking that the court order the NRC to conduct another environmental impact statement for ISP’s Texas facility.

Other challenges: In addition to the challenges filed by the antinuclear groups, the states of Texas and New Mexico are opposing ISP’s storage facility. Texas has appealed the NRC’s license approval at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, while New Mexico has appealed at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Initial briefs were filed in those cases on February 7 and March 10, 2022, respectively.

Texas has also passed a bill prohibiting state agencies from issuing construction, storm water, or pollution permits for facilities that are licensed by the NRC to store high-level radioactive waste.

Meanwhile, two other entities--Fasken Land and Minerals, Inc. and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owner--have appealed against the ISP facility in both the D.C. and 5th Circuit courts.

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