NRC to Review WCS Application re Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility

On January 26, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that the agency has docketed and accepted for formal review an application from Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to build and operate a spent nuclear fuel Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in Andrews, Texas.  The NRC’s decision follows an acceptance review to determine whether the application contains sufficient information for the agency to begin its formal review.

WCS is seeking to store 5,000 metric tons uranium of spent fuel received from commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States.


NRC’s review will proceed on two parallel tracks—one on safety issues and the other on environmental issues.  Both the safety and environmental reviews must be completed before the NRC makes a final licensing decision on the application.

In a letter to WCS dated January 26, 2017, the NRC set a schedule for its safety and environmental reviews.  The schedule sets a target of making a licensing decision by the third quarter of fiscal year 2019—assuming that WCS provides high-quality responses, on schedule, to any NRC requests for additional information.

Interested stakeholders will have 60 days from publication of a notice of docketing in the Federal Register, which will appear shortly, to submit requests for a hearing and petition to intervene in the licensing proceeding for the proposed facility.  Details on how to submit those requests and petitions will be in the Federal Register notice.

The NRC’s letter to WCS is available on the agency’s website at

Public Meetings

The NRC will hold the following two public meetings near the site of the proposed CISF to take public comments on the scope of the environmental review:

  • Hobbs, New Mexico:  Lea County Event Center (5101 N. Lovington Highway) from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. MT on February 13, 2017
  • Andrews, Texas:  James Roberts Center (855 TX-176) from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. CT on February 15, 2017

Stakeholders that are interested in attending or speaking are encouraged to pre-register by calling (301) 415- 6957 no later than three days prior to the scheduled meetings.  The public may also register in person at each meeting.  The time allowed for each speaker may be limited, depending on the number of registered speakers.

The NRC is also planning to hold additional scoping meetings at the agency’s headquarters in Rockville, Maryland during the week following the local meetings.  Details for these meetings are still being finalized.

Information about the public meetings will be posted to the NRC public meetings schedule on the agency’s website at

Submitting Comments

Interested stakeholders can submit comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the CISF as follows:

  • Federal Rulemaking Website: Electronic provide comments at
  • Mail:  Send comments to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-12 H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001

Written comments should refer to Docket ID NRC-2016-0231.  The NRC will accept public comments through March 13, 2017.


On April 28, 2016, WCS filed an application seeking a 40-year license for a CISF to receive spent fuel from nuclear reactors for storage, pending final disposal.  (See LLW Notes, May/June 2016, pp. 16-17.)  Specifically, WCS is requesting authorization to construct and operate a CISF at the company’s 60.3 square kilometer (14,900 acre) site in western Andrews County, Texas.  On this site, WCS currently operates facilities that process and store certain types of radioactive material—mainly low-level radioactive waste and mixed waste.  The facility also disposes of hazardous and toxic waste.

According to the application, WCS plans to construct the CISF in eight phases.  Phase one of the CISF would be designed to provide storage for up to 5,000 metric tons uranium (MTU) of spent nuclear fuel received from commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States.  WCS proposes that small amounts of mixed oxide spent fuels and Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive wastes also be stored at the CISF.  WCS stated that it would design each subsequent phase of the CISF to store up to an additional 5,000 MTU.  A total of up to 40,000 MTU would be stored at the site by the completion of the final phase.  Each phase would require NRC review and approval.

WCS would receive canisters containing spent nuclear fuel from the reactor sites.  Once accepted at the site, WCS would transfer them into onsite dry cask storage systems.  WCS plans to employ dry cask storage system technology that has been licensed by the NRC pursuant to 10 CFR Part 72 at various commercial nuclear reactors across the country.  According to WCS, the dry cask storage systems proposed for use at the CISF would be passive systems (i.e., not relying on any moving parts) and would provide physical protection, containment, nuclear criticality controls and radiation shielding required for the safe storage of the spent nuclear fuel.  WCS also states that the dry cask storage systems would be located on top of the concrete pads constructed at the CISF.

For additional information, please contact Maureen Conley of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission at (301) 415-8200.

WCS Files License Application to Operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for Used Nuclear Fuel

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.