Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2021-2022
By Leona Morgan
The New Year will begin with one proposed “temporary” storage facility for high-level radioactive waste being fully-licensed, and another not far behind. The two “Consolidated Interim Storage” (CIS) sites are about 40 miles apart in the Desert Southwest: 1) the 40,000 metric ton Interim Storage Partners or ISP facility (also known as Waste Control Specialists or WCS) in Texas; and 2) Holtec Inc.’s 173,600 metric ton site — the world’s largest — in New Mexico.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved ISP’s license application in September 2021. Don Hancock, Director of the Southwest Research and Information Center, expects that NRC will issue a license to Holtec in 2022. Hancock is convinced “that the NRC will issue these two licenses,” but, he explains, there are additional obstacles to be overcome, such as economic, political, and legal challenges. Therefore “the license approval is not the final decision.”
Both CIS license applications have been challenged in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals by regional groups, national environmental organizations, and one oil and gas company. In addition, the State of Texas is challenging ISP and opposes Holtec, while the State of New Mexico is fighting both Holtec and ISP.
Terry Lodge, an attorney representing community intervenors in both cases, estimates that oral arguments for ISP may be scheduled for late Summer 2022, with a final decision in early 2023. The case against Holtec has no hearings scheduled, but may move ahead if NRC issues the license.
CIS is a national issue, since opening a site would launch thousands of cross-country shipments of the deadly waste, so 2022 must be a year of anti-CIS action.
— Leona Morgan works with the Nuclear Issues Study Group in New Mexico.