Beyond Nuclear appeals NRC decision in Texas CISF licensing proceeding

The antinuclear organization Beyond Nuclear is appealing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s dismissal of its petition to intervene in the proceeding for Interim Storage Partners’ (ISP) application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in western Texas. Beyond Nuclear filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on February 10, asking the court to order the dismissal of the license application.

ISP, a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano, submitted its application for the CISF with the NRC in June 2018. In September 2018, Beyond Nuclear filed a motion to dismiss the application. An NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied Beyond Nuclear’s request for a hearing in the licensing proceedings, and in December 2020, the NRC issued an order upholding that decision.

DOE gets go-ahead to build spent fuel/high-level waste railcars

Graphical rendering of Fortis railcar design with spent nuclear fuel cask. Image: DOE

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) recently gave the Department of Energy approval to begin building and testing Fortis, a high-tech railcar designed specifically to transport the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Fortis is one of two specialized railcars under development by the DOE that could be operational within the next five years.

Fortis is an eight-axle, flat-deck railcar that will be able to transport large containers of spent fuel and HLW. It is equipped with high-tech sensors and monitoring systems that report 11 different performance features back to the operators in real time. The railcar design was completed earlier this year, with technical support from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

According to the DOE, AAR signed off on the design in January, allowing the department to begin fabricating and testing the prototype in compliance with the rail industry’s highest design standard for railcars transporting spent fuel and HLW.

Columbia University report sets out nuclear waste policy options

A new report out of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) offers a number of recommendations for improving the management of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States.

The report, Forging a Path Forward on U.S. Nuclear Waste Management: Options for Policy Makers, explains how the United States reached its current stalemate over nuclear waste disposal. It then examines productive approaches in other countries, and a few domestic ones, that could guide policymakers through options for improving the prospects for finding a disposal path for U.S. spent fuel and HLW.

Part of the center’s wider work on nuclear energy, the report echoes previous recommendations for U.S. spent fuel and HLW management, such as the use of a consent-based siting process and the formation of an independent waste management organization, both of which were recommended in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s 2012 report to the Secretary of Energy and Stanford University’s 2018 report, Reset of U.S. Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy.

NUREG published on high-burnup spent fuel storage and transportation

A final report on the dry storage and transportation of high-burnup spent nuclear fuel (NUREG-2224) has been issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NUREG-2224 provides a technical basis in support of the NRC’s guidance on adequate fuel conditions as it pertains to hydride reorientation in the cladding of high-burnup spent fuel (over 45 gigawatt-day per metric ton uranium).

NUREG-2224, “Dry Storage and Transportation of High Burnup Spent Nuclear Fuel,” was made publicly available on November 23 on the NRC’s ADAMS website with Accession No. ML20191A321.

Palo Verde settles with NRC over apparent spent fuel storage violations

The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona.

A confirmatory order issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Arizona Public Service Company documents the commitments the company has made as part of a settlement agreement with the agency. The settlement agreement stems from two apparent violations of NRC regulations involving spent nuclear fuel at APS’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Tonopah, Ariz.

The apparent violations involved APS’s failure to (1) perform a written evaluation for a change to the NAC MAGNASTOR dry cask storage system for spent fuel and obtain a license amendment for a change in methodology for performing tip-over calculations and (2) adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical MAGNASTOR CC5 spent fuel cask tip-over accident on the plant’s independent spent fuel storage installation pad.

The confirmatory order was issued on November 17. The apparent violations are described in a July 6 NRC inspection report.

Texas governor asks Trump to cancel interim storage facilities


In a letter sent to President Trump on September 30, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his opposition to two proposed consolidated interim storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel that are currently under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Abbott is opposing Interim Storage Partner’s (ISP) interim storage facility in West Texas and Holtec International’s planned facility in New Mexico, near the Texas border, claiming that the facilities will put U.S. energy security at risk by being sited within the oil-producing region of the Permian Basin.

Abbott also said that he was opposed to increasing the amount of radioactive waste permitted to be disposed of in Texas without state approval. In April 2019, Abbott wrote to the Department of Energy and the NRC expressing his objections to federal actions that could allow Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to accept greater-than-Class C waste at its disposal site in Andrews County, Texas. ISP is a joint venture of WCS and Orano USA.