Oyster Creek’s Final Outage Set, Interim Spent Nuke Fuel Repositories Still Under Review

Sep 12, 2018

As the nation’s oldest commercial nuclear power plant is expected to begin its final outage next week before permanently coming offline, the federal agency that oversees the nuclear industry continues to review two applications for interim spent nuclear fuel. Part of that process includes requests for a public hearing on the applications.

The deadline to request a public hearing on Holtec International’s interim repository in New Mexico is slated to close Sept. 14, while the 60-day window for a similar spent nuclear fuel facility in Texas closes Oct. 29. Holtec is the New Jersey-based company interested in purchasing the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station and rapidly advancing its decommissioning process once the nuke permanently comes offline. A decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on that license transfer application isn’t expected for at least a year.

“If a hearing is granted, any person who is not a party to the proceeding and is not affiliated with or represented by a party may, at the discretion of the presiding officer, be permitted to make a limited appearance pursuant to the provisions of 10 CFR 2.315(a),” according to the NRC procedures. “A person making a limited appearance may make an oral or written statement of his or her position on the issues but may not otherwise participate in the proceeding.”

The decision regarding Holtec’s interim repository could come around July 2020, according to Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC’s Region 1 Office. The Camden-based company is seeking to build and operate Phase 1 of the interim repository on approximately 1,040-acres of land, according to its application. Holtec is currently requesting authorization to possess and store 500 canisters of spent nuclear fuel containing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which includes spent uranium-based fuel from commercial nuclear reactors, as well as a small quantity of spent mixed-oxide fuel.

If the NRC issues the requested license, Holtec expects to subsequently ask for additional amendments to the initial license to expand the storage capacity of the facility, according to Sheehan. Under its proposal, the company proposes expanding the facility in 19 subsequent phases, each for an additional 500 canisters, to be completed over the course of 20 years, Sheehan said.

“Ultimately, Holtec anticipates that approximately 10,000 canisters would be stored at the facility upon completion of 20 phases,” he said, noting that each phase would require NRC review and approval.

With regard to the Texas facility, the NRC resumed reviewing the application after it received two letters, dated June 8 and July 19, from Interim Storage Partners, a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano CIS LLC. The application review was temporarily suspended after an April 2017 letter from the former applicant, WCS.

In April 2016, the NRC received a letter from WCS proposing to build a consolidated interim storage facility on approximately 14,900 acres on a site in western Andrews County, Texas. The company operates facilities on the site that process and store low-level waste and mixed water. The facility also disposes of both hazardous waste and toxic waste, according to the federal registry notice published by the NRC.

Until a decision is made, the only option for U.S. nuclear power plants, according to federal officials, is to store spent fuel from the reactor vessel onsite.

— Gina G. Scala


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