WHAT IS THIS PROPOSAL?

Waste Control Specialists is seeking a license that would allow it to store used nuclear fuel at its 14,000-acre facility in Andrews County, Texas. This dry material – housed in steel-reinforced concrete – would be stored for a period of 60-100 years while the federal government continues to seek a long-term disposal solution.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) currently operates a fleet of highly engineered Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) repositories in Andrews County, Texas, which represent the future of radioactive waste disposal. Those low level disposal operations would remain separate and apart from the proposed new storage operations.

IS THIS SAFE?

Yes. This used fuel would be placed in dry storage, sealed in a cask (made of concrete and steel) at its point of origin. The used fuel is then encased in another cask certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for rail transportation to WCS. Once these casks arrive at the facility, they are placed into secure storage without being opened.

WHO SUPPORTS THIS?

We believe that the project cannot succeed without local involvement and support. After months of discussion, WCS presented the proposal to the community on December 1, 2014. On January 20, 2015, the Andrews County Commissioners Court has deliberated the proposal and unanimously adopted a resolution of support for this project.

WCS will maintain an ongoing dialogue with the local community, regional authorities and statewide elected officials and regulatory agencies as this process moves forward.

The National Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has concluded that an interim consolidated used nuclear fuel plan, such as the one proposed by WCS, is a critical element of an integrated national waste management system.

The Texas Radiation Advisory Board recently published a report detailing the reasons Texas should host the nation’s spent nuclear fuel repository, reinforcing the importance of the WCS proposal.

WHAT IS USED NUCLEAR FUEL?

To generate electricity, nuclear power plants use uranium oxide fuel—in the form of small ceramic pellets—that is placed inside metal fuel rods. These rods are grouped into bundles called assemblies. Fission—the splitting of uranium atoms in a chain reaction—produces a tremendous amount of heat energy for the amount of material consumed. This energy is used to boil water into steam, which drives a turbine generator to produce electricity.

These ceramic pellets are similarly used to produce power in government and university research reactors, as well as reactors on submarines and ships. These reactors are refueled every 18-24 months when about one-third of the fuel is removed from the reactor and stored in fuel pools. The fuel in the pools is referred to as “used” or “spent” fuel.

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SPENT FUEL? USED FUEL? HIGH LEVEL WASTE? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

There is no substantive difference between “spent” fuel and “used” fuel; the difference is in name only. “High-level” radioactive waste primarily relates to defense nuclear activities, but also includes irradiated reactor fuel.

HOW WOULD THE USED FUEL BE TRANSPORTED?

The waste would arrive at the WCS site by rail, with limited truck involvement, usually to gain access to the closest rail head.

The U.S. has an excellent safety record of nuclear material transportation. Since 1965, government and industry groups have transported more than 10,000 used fuel assemblies in more than 2,700 shipments over more than 1.6 million miles. There have been four highway and four rail accidents involving transport vehicles; however, none has resulted in the breach of a cask or the release of any radioactive material.

STORAGE vs. DISPOSAL?

This will not be a disposal facility for high level waste. WCS is seeking a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to provide interim storage (60-100 years) for this used fuel.

WHAT WILL WCS BE DOING?

The used fuel is currently being stored at over 65 sites in 33 states across the country in concrete and steel monoliths (casks). These casks would be encased in an additional transportation cask that has been certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and transferred primarily by rail to WCS. The storage cask will be removed from the transportation cask and placed in storage at WCS. The used fuel will never be removed from the original storage cask.

WILL THERE BE OVERSIGHT?

Yes. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would have oversight of the facility once it becomes operational. The NRC will review the fabrication of the storage casks, inspect the operations of the interim storage facility prior to the casks being loaded, observe initial cask loadings, and perform periodic inspections of routine cask loading operations. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has regulatory oversight of the current low level facilities and WCS assumes they would continue to monitor any additional activity at the site.