On April 28, 2016, Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) announced that it has submitted an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel. “The application is being led by WCS,” states the company’s press release, “along with its partners AREVA and NAC International, both global industry leaders in the transportation and storage of used nuclear fuel.”
WCS submitted the application after a year of pre-application meetings with NRC and in accordance with a timeline that the company outlined in February 2015. According to WCS, a CISF could be completed as early as 2021.
The WCS application proposes 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 would be able to accommodate 5,000 MTHM for an eventual capacity of 40,000 MTHM. The proposal includes opportunities for 20-year renewals after the initial license period.
According to WCS, Phase 1 of the CISF will require approximately 155 acres, plus an additional 12 acres for administrative and parking facilities. The entire site through Phase 8 will require approximately 332 acres, which WCS notes is less than 2.5 percent of the company’s site-wide acreage.
As proposed, the primary operations performed at the WCS site would be transferring the sealed canisters of used fuel from a transportation cask into an engineered interim fuel storage system, where it would 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,” said Rod Baltzer, President and CEO of WCS. “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.”
According to WCS’ press release, 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, states WCS, is to reduce the liability to taxpayers for the federal government’s failure to meet its contractual obligations to dispose of this material.
Various lawsuits have been filed that allege that the federal government has failed to meet its statutory obligation to take title to used nuclear fuel by 1998. The government has estimated that its liability will total $13 billion by 2020 and may increase by approximately $500 million per year if a solution is not found by 2022.
The Nuclear Waste Fund’s 2015 Audit Statement found the net value of the fund to be $37.4 billion. Expenditures over the past five years have been approximately $4 billion.
WCS operates a privately owned facility in Andrews County, Texas that has been licensed to treat, store and dispose of Class A, B and C low-level radioactive waste. WCS is a subsidiary of Valhi, Inc.—a company that is engaged in the titanium dioxide pigments, component products (security products and high performance marine components), waste management, and real estate management and development industries.