Hearing Denied re Proposed New Mexico Spent Fuel Storage Facility

On May 7, 2019, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) denied requests by several petitioners to hold an evidentiary hearing challenging Holtec International’s license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.  The NRC staff’s technical and environmental reviews of the license application will continue.

The board’s ruling is available on the NRC’s Electronic Hearing Docket on the agency website at https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/adjudicatory.html under Holtec International 72-1051.


In January 2019, the three-judge board held oral arguments in Albuquerque, New Mexico on the standing of the various petitioners and the admissibility of their proposed contentions under NRC regulations.  While the judges agreed that some of the six petitioners met the qualifications for standing, they concluded that the nearly 50 contentions raised were not admissible for an evidentiary hearing.  The judges held that the contentions either were not relevant to the application or did not establish a genuine dispute with aspects of the application.

The NRC’s hearing process allows interested parties who might be affected by a proposed licensing action to challenge the application on technical (safety) or environmental grounds.  Most hearings are conducted by licensing boards appointed from the ASLB Panel – a group of administrative judges independent of the NRC staff.  Board rulings may be appealed to the Commission.


Holtec is a vendor of dry cask storage systems.  The company has proposed to store spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants at a facility in Lea County, which is located in the southeastern corner of New Mexico.  The license application for the HI-STORE CISF was submitted to the NRC on March 31, 2017.  The Commission accepted the application in February 2018 (U.S. NRC Docket No. 72-1051.)

Hearing petitions were filed by Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club and the Fasken Land and Minerals and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners, which were granted standing.  Two other petitioners – a coalition of several different organizations and NAC International, a rival dry storage cask vendor – were denied standing.  The standing of a sixth petitioner, the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, was not decided.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8205 or Erica Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0900 ext. 3920 or at e.grandrimo@holtec.com.

Oral Arguments Held re Holtec Spent Fuel Storage Application

On January 23, 2019, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) heard oral arguments in Albuquerque, New Mexico on petitions to hold an adjudicatory hearing concerning an application by Holtec International to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in the state.

The arguments were held at the State Bar of New Mexico, which is located at 5121 Masthead St. NE in Albuquerque.

Project Overview

According to the license application, Holtec is seeking to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent fuel in the Holtec International Storage Module Underground “MAXimum” Capacity (HI-STORM UMAX) Storage System for a 40-year license term.  The subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system has a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters.  The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities.  The NRC previously certified HI-STORM UMAX in Docket number 72-1040.

“Engineered over a decade ago and licensed by the NRC in 2015, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility,” states Holtec.  “Already deployed at multiple nuclear power plants around the U.S. …, the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel canister containing the spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location.  HI-STORE CIS is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities.”

“Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.,” continues Holtec.  “The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.”

Holtec is using its own funds to support the licensing action.  According to Holtec, the project has “the enthusiastic support of nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC.”  If the initial application is approved, Holtec plans to make supplemental submittals to incorporate the various canister types being used in the industry.

The Holtec application and other documents related to the NRC’s review are available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov.


Holtec submitted its application on March 30, 2017.  The NRC formally docketed the application on February 28, 2018.  On March 30, 2018, NRC published a Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the scope of its environmental review.  (See 83 Federal Register 13,802 dated March 30, 2018.)  Comments were accepted through May 29, 2018.  (See LLW Notes, March/April 2018, pp. 16-18.)

On April 6, 2018, NRC published a separate notice about the public meetings.  (See 83 Federal Register 14,897 dated April 6, 2018.)  On July 18, 2017, NRC issued a press release announcing the opportunity for the public to request an adjudicatory hearing on Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico.  (See LLW Notes, July/August 2018, pp. 16-18.)  A few days earlier, an announcement was published in the Federal Register that describes the requirements and procedures for filing a request for a hearing and petition to intervene.  (See 83 Federal Register 32,919 dated July 16, 2018.)  The deadline for submitting a request to the NRC was September 14, 2018.

The Federal Register notice announcing the opportunity to request a hearing on Holtec’s application is available online at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-16/pdf/2018-15079.pdf.

For additional information, please contact, please contact Erika Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0090 ext. 3920 or at e.grandrimo@holtec.com or David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.