By Lindsay Potter
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled August 25, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not have authority to license temporary storage facilities for irradiated nuclear fuel away from a reactor.
The court wrote: “Nuclear power generation produces thousands of metric tons of nuclear waste each year. … Congress has mandated that such waste be permanently stored in a geologic repository. But the development, licensing, and construction of that repository has stalled.”
The NRC issued a license to Interim Storage Partners, LLC for the construction and operation of a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for waste nuclear fuel on the Permian Basin in Andrews County, Texas. Oil and gas extraction company Fasken Land and Minerals, Ltd., along with the Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners and the state of Texas, filed the appeal. The now-vacated license, issued in 2021, authorized storage of 5,000 tons of waste reactor fuel for 40 years, with a planned expansion up to 40,000 tons over 20 years. In 2022, Texas lawmakers passed a bill blocking any new storage facilities for such high-level radioactive waste.
The Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering a challenge to the 40-year license the NRC issued in May to Holtec International to build and operate a CISF for 500 canisters, or 8,680 tons of waste fuel near Carlsbad, New Mexico, with an anticipated increase up to 10,000 canisters over the next 20 years.
— World Nuclear News, Aug. 30; Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Ruling No. 21-60743, Aug. 25, 2023