Holtec calls for US Supreme Court to reinstate New Mexico licence

08 July 2024

Holtec International has joined the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the US Federal Government in filing petitions asking the Supreme Court to reinstate the licence for a proposed interim storage facility for used fuel to be built in New Mexico.

Holtec's rendering of the HI-STORE CISF (Image: Holtec)

The NRC issued the licence in May 2023 for Holtec to build and operate the HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) on land owned by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), a regional economic development entity in SoutheastNew Mexico. But in March this year, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals published a decision to "vacate" the licence following a similar ruling against another private interim storage licence in Texas.

Interim Storage Partners' licence to build and operate a CISF at an existing waste disposal site in Andrews County, Texas, was annulled by the court in August last year after it ruled that the NRC does not have the authority to license a private storage facility.

"We believe that the Fifth Circuit's decision plainly contradicts several aspects of federal law, including the authorisation of the NRC to license and regulate spent nuclear fuel storage facilities," the company said on 27 June.

The company said it has now joined the NRC and the federal government in filing petitions asking the Supreme Court to overturn the March ruling and to reinstate the licence for the HI-STORE CISF.

"The NRC's federally mandated authority and responsibility to license and regulate spent nuclear fuel is long established," Holtec Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Joy Russell said. "The construction of the CISF is a key part of future growth of nuclear energy and a vitally important part of our nation's energy security. The Fifth Circuit's ruling that the US NRC was not authorised to license and regulate nuclear fuel storage is tantamount to calling OSHA unqualified for oversight of worker safety, FAA of aviation safety, and EPA for environmental safety. We urge the Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit's legally unsound position."

Holtec submitted its application with the NRC for a 40-year licence for the initial phase of the project, for up to 500 canisters holding some 8680 tonnes of used fuel, in 2017. Future amendments would see this ultimately increase to up to 10,000 storage canisters. The facility would use Holtec's licensed HI-STORM UMAX technology.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News