Plans were challenged by state and oil and gas interests
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has cancelled a licence from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 40-year nuclear waste storage facility in Texas.
The panel determined that the NRC lacked the authority under federal law to issue permits for private, temporary nuclear waste storage sites.
The licence, which was issued in 2021 to project developer Interim Storage Partners, was challenged by Texas and west Texas oil and gas interests that opposed the facility.
US Circuit Judge James Ho, writing for the court, agreed with Texas that the Atomic Energy Act does not give the agency the broad authority “to licence a private, away-from-reactor storage facility for spent nuclear fuel”.
The plan for a temporary facility was devised in order to address a growing nuclear waste problem in the US.
The Andrews County site was chosen after efforts to build a permanent storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada fell apart amid local opposition.
The licence authorised Interim Storage Partners to receive, possess, transfer and store up to 5,000 tonnes of spent fuel from the country’s fleet of 93 commercial nuclear reactors and 231.3 tonnes of greater-than-class C low-level radioactive waste for 40 years.
The company said it planned to expand the facility in seven additional phases, up to a total capacity of 40,000 tonnes of spent fuel.
Interim Storage Partners is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano USA. It had intended to build the storage facility on property next to the WCS low-level radioactive waste disposal site already operating under a Texas licence.