Status Report: Waste Control Specialists (WCS) license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF)
Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel. The ﬁling comes after a year of pre-application meetings with NRC and maintains the timeline WCS outlined in February 2015.
The application is being led by WCS, along with its partners AREVA and NAC International, both global industry leaders in the transportation and storage of used nuclear fuel.
“It’s been a busy but productive year since we made our announcement in Washington in 2015 so I am very pleased that we are on time and on target,” said WCS president & CEO Rod Baltzer.
“Thanks to the hard work of our partners at AREVA and NAC International, and input from NRC, we were able to deliver a very thorough, detailed license application this morning. As a result, I am conﬁdent that we will have a final license in approximately three years. This is a critical first step and I hope that legislative and DOE contractual matters can also be resolved in that period.”
Baltzer said the license submittal puts WCS on track for the completion of CISF as early as 2021 if such steps are accomplished.
Timely solutions for the used nuclear fuel challenge in the U.S. have proved elusive for more than 40 years. Now a private sector solution for secure storage has been proposed by a company with a proven track record for licensing success.
WCS is the only privately-owned and operated facility in the United States that has been licensed to treat, store and dispose of Class A, B and C low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). Located in an arid, isolated part of west Texas, WCS oﬀers one of the most geologically characterized locations in the United States as a result of the multi-year licensing process for that facility.
“We believe we can provide a safe interim solution for this used nuclear fuel, which has been accumulating at nuclear power plants across the country and for which our nation has been struggling to develop a comprehensive waste management system,” said Baltzer.
“What we are proposing is an initial 40-year storage license for 40,000 metric tons of heavy metal (MTHM) to be built in eight phases. Each of the eight storage systems will be able to accommodate 5,000 MTHM for an eventual capacity of 40,000 MTHM. Our proposal includes opportunities for 20 year renewals after the initial license period,” added Baltzer.
The primary operations performed at the site will be transferring the sealed canisters of used fuel from a transportation cask into an engineered interim fuel storage system where it will be monitored until its departure to an oﬀsite permanent disposal location.
“Consolidated interim storage would provide system-wide benefits and flexibilities to strengthen the U.S. Used Nuclear Fuel Management Program and help advance a permanent geologic disposal program. It creates a robust opportunity to develop and deploy the repackaging technology to prepare the used nuclear fuel currently in dry storage for ﬁnal oﬀsite disposal in a geologic repository.” said Baltzer.
Other beneﬁts of consolidated interim storage include the opportunity to reduce the risk of further degradation of on-site infrastructure at permanently shut down reactor sites and to address public concerns about transportation by demonstrating successful transport of this material.
Another chief beneﬁt of an accelerated schedule for moving fuel away from shutdown sites is to reduce the liability to taxpayers. The taxpayer supported Judgment Fund is the source of payment of judgments against the federal government for failing to meet its contractual obligations to dispose of this material.
When the federal government failed to meet its obligation to take title to used nuclear fuel by 1998, it created a liability that led to a $4.5 billion problem for American taxpayers paying settlement costs as a result of lawsuits ﬁled against the government for its failure to meet that deadline.
By its own estimates, the government indicates that its liability will total almost $13 billion by 2020 and could total as much as $27 billion. They estimate that amount will increase by approximately$500 million per year if the government does not ﬁnd a way to begin satisfying its obligations by 2022.
These damages are paid out of the U.S. Treasury’s Judgment Fund not through an appropriations process or from utility ratepayers. So, regardless of their source of energy, all taxpayers are liable.
A consolidated interim storage facility would allow the government to meet its contractual obligation to the utilities. This will relieve taxpayers of the burden of paying the cost of ongoing liability judgments against the government.
Nuclear Waste Fund’s 2015 Financial Audit Statement noted the net value of the fund was $37.4 billion.
A recent Department of Energy (DOE) estimate of the federal government’s liability for these costs was $21.4 billion through 2071.
Expenditures over the past ﬁve-years have been$4 billion.
The Congressional Budget Oﬃce stated that $4.3 billion in damages have been paid to date and remaining liabilities will total $23.7 billion even if legislation and suﬃcient appropriations are enacted that will enable the DOE to begin accepting waste within the next 10 years.
“Establishing an economically viable solution for used fuel management in the United States is vital to sustaining and advancing nuclear energy. The CISF is an important part of meeting this goal. Working with our partners, WCS and NAC International, we are proud to reach this regulatory milestone in the project’s development.”
Vice President and CISF Project Director for AREVA Inc.
“As you might imagine, licensing the storage of high level radioactive material is a very technical, detailed and rigorous exercise. We had many meetings with NRC in the course of preparing the application and all the parties involved worked very hard on this. We have also had very good interactions with the capable staﬀ at the NRC and look forward to working with them during the license review period.
It was a lot of work and a lot of coordination between the various team members and stakeholders, but it got done. And it got done on time.
We all have a signiﬁcant investment in this project and are committed to making it happen. There is support from industry experts and policy advisors because they recognize that consolidated interim storage will be good for the entire industry and pave the way for a more seamless transition to a permanent geologic repository like Yucca Mountain.”
President & CEO, WCS
“NAC is proud to be part of this strong team of key industry players to support this very important initiative to provide a viable solution to the industry’s need for a safe, secure storage location for used nuclear fuel.
There is still political and regulatory work to be done, but the submittal of this license application is a signiﬁcant milestone that demonstrates the hard work
of the combined team and the robustness of the solution.”
President & CEO, NAC
This is the most common question about the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) proposal to store used nuclear fuel in a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) at its Andrews, Texas facility. The answer is no. All used nuclear fuel shipments will travel by rail.
The origin of the journey could involve a very short truck haul to get the material to the nearest rail head but it then travels by rail and WCS will be accepting it by rail. WCS already has an active rail spur that loops the property – one of the many factors that strengthens the WCS proposal.
The Department of Energy ( DOE), Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) take this issue very seriously and have strict regulations at each step of the process. For example, the trains all require buﬀer cars. That means one empty car on either side of the cars carrying the NRC certiﬁed, steel-reinforced casks of used fuel.
The casks must be certiﬁed by the NRC and pass rigorous testing to get that certiﬁcation. That testing includes putting casks through a fully engulﬁng ﬁre which is more severe (hotter) than any real life ﬁres of hazardous waste that have occurred.
A train carrying used fuel will only cross tunnels or other constricted crossings if the other side of the rail is shut down to train traﬃc which ensures it is the only train on the tracks. The U.S. DOT has examined this issue in great detail and there are several studies that have analyzed the history of rail accidents involving hazardous cargo. Most of those accidents involved ﬂammable liquids and gases. It is important to note, that the used nuclear fuel WCS is seeking to store is solid.
There has never been a recorded transportation incident in the U.S. where there was a radioactive release and there has never been an accident involving used nuclear fuel.
In addition, WCS’s partners in this endeavor – AREVA and NAC International – have decades of expertise in transporting used nuclear fuel safely in the U.S. and abroad.
Phase 1 of the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) Consolidated Interim Storage Facility, (CISF) project will take approximately 155 acres, plus 12 acres for administrative and parking facilities.
The entire site through Phase 8 will take approximately 332 acres or less than 2.5 percent of our site-wide acreage.
By 2053 (the 34th year of WCS CISF) there will be 71 shutdown reactor sites in the United States.