US regulator issues licence for interim storage facility

14 September 2021

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a licence to Interim Storage Partners LLC to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas. Interim Storage Partners is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) and Orano USA.

Used fuel and waste would be stored in canisters and cask systems at the proposed facility (Image: @ISPNuclear)

The licence authorises the company to receive, possess, transfer and store up to 5000 tonnes of used fuel and 231.3 tonnes of Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste for 40 years. GTCC is defined by the NRC as low-level radioactive waste with concentrations of radionuclides that exceed certain limits.

Interim Storage Partners intends to construct the storage facility on property adjacent to WCS's existing low-level radioactive waste disposal site, which is already operating under a Texas licence. The company has said it plans to expand the new facility in seven additional phases, up to a total capacity of 40,000 tonnes of fuel. Each expansion would require a licence amendment with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.

The used fuel and waste must be stored in canisters and cask systems, and these must meet NRC standards for protection against leakage, radiation dose rates, and criticality, under normal and accident conditions, the regulator said. The canisters are required to be sealed when they arrive at the facility, and remain sealed during onsite handling and storage activities.

The NRC's review of the licence application included a technical safety and security review, an environmental impact review and adjudication before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. A safety evaluation report, documenting the technical review, is being issued along with the licence. The regulator issued a final environmental impact statement on the application in July.

This is the second licence issued by the NRC for a consolidated storage facility for used fuel, the regulator said. It issued a licence in 2006 to Private Fuel Storage for a proposed facility in Utah, but that facility was never constructed. The agency is currently reviewing an application from Holtec International for a similar facility proposed for Lea County, New Mexico, on which it currently anticipates reaching a decision in January 2022.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News