NRC begins scoping effort for spent fuel storage site in Texas

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is seeking comments from the public on the issues to be covered in the environmental review of an application from Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to build construct and operate a facility to store spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas.

The NRC will prepare an environmental impact statement to document its evaluation of those impacts and is now taking public comments on the scope.

WCS, a subsidiary of Valhi (NYSE:VHI), filed its application in April seeking a 40-year license for a facility that would receive spent fuel from nuclear reactors for storage, pending final disposal.

The NRC will be conducting two separate reviews – an environmental review to identify potential impacts, and a safety review to determine whether the WCS application meets the NRC’s regulatory requirements. The environmental review will fulfill the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement to do an analysis of environmental impacts for major federal actions.

The agency has not yet accepted and docketed the WCS application. WCS has been providing supplemental information in phases in response to a June 22 NRC request.

Several environmental and anti-nuclear organizations have asked NRC to terminate its review of the license application for the project.

The NRC will evaluate the supplemental responses before deciding whether to docket the application and proceed with the safety review. If the NRC dockets the application, it will announce in the Federal Register an opportunity to ask for a public hearing and an end date for comments on the scope of the environmental review.

WCS had asked for the environmental review to begin as soon as possible. The NRC has agreed because doing so will allow the agency to engage interested members of the public early in the process. It will also provide additional time to consult with federal, tribal, state and local government agencies, facilitating compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

“We cannot proceed with the technical safety review until WCS adequately addresses our request for supplemental information, but we do have the information we need to begin the environmental scoping process now,” said NRC’s Mark Lombard, director of the division of spent fuel management. “WCS will bear the cost of staff time devoted to the environmental review, even if we are unable to docket the application in its current form.”

WCS seeks a permit to build and operate the short-term dry cask storage facility for up to 40,000 metric tons of nuclear waste in Andrews County, but only if the U.S. government first assumes responsibility for the waste.

It should also be noted that Waste Control Specialists is a partner with the NorthStar Group Services deal to accelerate decommissioning of the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Vermont Yankee nuclear plant by decades.

Written comments on the scope may be submitted over the federal government’s rulemaking website, www.regulations.gov, using Docket ID NRC-2011-0148; by email to WCS_CISF_EIS@nrc.gov; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-12 H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. More information can be found in a Nov. 14 Federal Register notice.

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.