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.

Overview

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.

Background

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 (at) holtec (dot) com) e.grandrimo (at) holtec (dot) com.