US regulator issues FEIS for Texas interim storage facility

30 July 2021

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on Interim Storage Partners, LLC's application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel in Texas. The regulator recommends granting a licence for the facility.

ISP's vision for the CISF (Image: @ISPNuclear)

Interim Storage Partners (ISP) was established in 2018 as a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano CIS, a subsidiary of Orano USA, to licence a CISF to be built at WCS's existing waste disposal site in Andrews County, Texas. The proposed licence would authorise a CISF to store up to 5000 tonnes of used commercial nuclear fuel as well as so-called Greater-Than-Class C waste for a period of 40 years. ISP plans a phased expansion of the facility over 20 years to eventually store up to 40,000 tonnes of used fuel, subject to future approvals.

The NRC published a draft environmental impact statement on the project in May 2020. This was opened for public comment, and some 2500 unique comments submitted by nearly 10,600 members of the public were reviewed by the regulator before reaching its conclusion. The FEIS will now be submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency, which will be confirmed by a notice in the US Federal Register after which the NRC must wait at least 30 days before issuing a licensing decision.

"We appreciate the rigorous and deliberate process of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to thoroughly investigate the environmental soundness of our licence application," ISP said, describing the FEIS as an indication of the application's "quality and thoroughness".

The management of civilian used nuclear fuel in the USA is a federal responsibility, but the planned permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which in 1987 was designated as the sole initial repository for 70,000 tonnes of high-level wastes, has not been built. This means used fuel from over 70 shutdown, decommissioned and operating nuclear energy facilities is currently in storage at sites across the nation.

CISFs such as the one proposed by ISP would offer dry-cask storage at an away-from-reactor site pending disposal at a permanent disposal facility. ISP's facility would use proven above-ground dry fuel storage systems developed by Orano TN and NAC International, which are already in place at numerous operating and decommissioned commercial nuclear energy facilities in the USA. The storage system has a design life in excess of 100 years.

In addition to ISP's application, the NRC is also reviewing an application from Holtec International for a CISF in Lea County, New Mexico.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News