NRC receives spent fuel storage application from Texas company

A Texas company, Waste Control Specialists (WCS), filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on April 28 for a dry cask storage facility to be located in Andrews County, Texas.

The application for a license to construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel comes after a year of pre-application meetings with NRC and maintains the timeline WCS outlined in February 2015, the company said.

The application is being led by WCS, along with its partners AREVA and NAC International, both global industry players in the transportation and storage of used nuclear fuel.

WCS plans to store spent fuel from commercial reactors; initially, from reactors that have permanently shut down.

The application discusses utilizing dry storage casks that have previously been approved by the NRC. The spent fuel would arrive already sealed in canisters, so the handling would be limited to moving the canisters from transportation to storage casks.

“We conduct two parallel reviews – one of the safety and security aspects, the other of potential environment impacts,” NRC said in a blog post.

But before those reviews get underway, NRC will review the application to see if it contains enough information that is of high enough quality to allow us to do the detailed reviews. If it doesn’t, WCS will have a chance to supplement it.

Once the application is complete, NRC would publish a notice in the Federal Register. This notice will alert the public that we have accepted the application for technical review, and offer an opportunity to ask for a hearing.

At the beginning of its safety and security review, NRC staff will hold a public meeting near the site to answer questions about our process. NRC will also have public meetings with WCS as needed so the staff can ask questions about the application. NRC will subsequently issue a Safety Evaluation Report.

Toward the end of the process, NRC will issue a draft, and eventually, final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Assuming a timely process, NRC expects its entire review will take about three years.

If interested parties ask for a hearing, and their petition is granted by the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, then the board will consider specific “contentions,” or challenges to our reviews of the safety, security or environmental aspects of the proposed facility. The board will hold a hearing on any contentions that cannot be resolved.  

“If the application meets our regulations, we’re legally bound to issue a license,” the agency said in a blog post.

“Our reviews look only at the regulatory requirements, which are carefully designed to ensure public health and safety and the environment will be protected,” according to an NRC blog post.

“Incidentally, we are expecting an application for a second centralized interim storage facility Nov. 30. This one, to be filed by Holtec International, will be for a site in New Mexico. We’ll follow the same process in reviewing that application,” NRC said in the blog post.

WCS official optimistic about getting license

“Thanks to the hard work of our partners at AREVA and NAC International, and input from NRC, we were able to deliver a very thorough, detailed license application this morning,” WCS President and CEO Rod Baltzer.

 “As a result, I am confident that we will have a final license in approximately three years. This is a critical first step and I hope that legislative and DOE [Department of Energy] contractual matters can also be resolved in that period.”

Baltzer said the license submittal puts WCS on track for completion of a CISF as early as 2021, if such steps are accomplished within our expected timeline.

U.S. solid waste policy has been bogged down for years in the debate over Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

“Consolidated interim storage would provide system-wide benefits and flexibilities to strengthen the U.S. Used Nuclear Fuel Management Program and help advance a permanent geologic disposal program,” said Baltzer of WCS. “It creates a robust opportunity to develop and deploy the repackaging technology to prepare the used nuclear fuel currently in dry storage for final offsite disposal in a geologic repository,” he added.

Another chief benefit of an accelerated schedule for moving fuel away from shutdown sites is to reduce the liability to taxpayers, WCS said.

Because the DOE has failed to meet its legal obligation and assuming control of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors, nuclear plant operators have won monetary judgments from DOE in court.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.