WCS Places Spent Fuel Storage Application on Hold

By letter dated mid-April 2017, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to temporarily suspend the agency’s review of its application to construct and operate a spent nuclear fuel Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in Andrews County, Texas.

WSC “is faced with a magnitude of financial burdens that currently make pursuit of licensing unsupportable,” Rod Baltzer, the company’s President and CEO, said in a letter to the NRC dated April 16, 2017.  According to Baltzer, the estimated $7.5 million that is needed to continue the licensing process was a significant factor in WCS’ decision.  The following day, NRC announced that it would freeze the review.

The request comes as EnergySolutions is trying to buy WCS, although the U.S. Department of Justice has sued to block the merger, arguing it would essentially create a monopoly on radioactive waste disposal.  “WCS expects to go forward with this project at the earliest possible opportunity after completion of the sale,” Baltzer said in a statement.

In the meantime, on March 16, 2017, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that the agency was providing additional opportunities for the public to comment on the CISF application that was submitted by WCS.


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.