NRC issues GEH renewed used fuel storage facility licence to 2042

02 December 2022

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued the licence to GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy America (GEH)  for the "possession, transfer and storage of radioactive material" at the Morris Operation Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) in Illinois.

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In an announcement published in the US Federal Register on 28 November, the NRC said the "licensee's application for a renewed licence complies with the standards and requirements of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (the Act), and the NRC's rules and regulations".

The subsequent renewed licence will last to 31 May 2042. The application to renew the current licence was submitted in June 2020 and the NRC said that it had received "no request for a hearing or petition for leave to intervene".

The NRC said that a safety evaluation report had concluded that the ISFSI would continue to meet the required regulations and "NRC staff also prepared an environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for the subsequent renewal of this licence" and concluded that the renewal of the licence "will not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment".

In its environmental impact assessment, published on 17 November, the NRC said: "Approval of the proposed action is not expected to result in changes to current ISFSI operations. Routine operation of the ISFSI is largely passive; activities include continuation of existing monitoring and maintenance activities for the wet storage basins, which are inside a building. The proposed action would not result in any changes in water use or in the types, characteristics, or quantities of radiological or nonradiological air effluents or wastes.

"GE Hitachi would continue to operate onsite sanitary wastewater lagoons in compliance with its state-issued permit and would manage the radioactive wastewater system and solid radioactive wastes generated from ISFSI operations in accordance with NRC regulations. No wastewater would be discharged from the property. As a result of these continued ISFSI activities, no significant radiological or non-radiological environmental impacts are expected."

It also considered the impact of not issuing the renewal licence and said that this option would mean GEH still having to maintain storage at the ISFSI until such time as it could be transferred to another ISFSI and then decommission Morris Operation ISFSI. The NRC determined "that shipment of the spent fuel to a commercial reprocessing facility, a Federal repository, or an interim storage facility is not a reasonable alternative to renewing the licence because these facilities are not available in the United States as of the date of the EA".

The Morris Operation, where used fuel from the Connecticut Yankee, Cooper, Dresden, Monticello and San Onofre plants is stored, is the only licensed away-from-reactor wet used fuel storage facility in the USA.

The Morris ISFSI was originally designed as a fuel reprocessing plant, but the 300 tonne per year plant was declared inoperable in 1974. According to the American Nuclear Society, the NRC issued the Morris facility its first 20-year licence as an ISFSI in 1982. This was renewed for a second 20-year term in 2000.

The NRC says "continued storage of the spent fuel and continued operation of the ISFSI is necessary because Congress has not yet established a permanent national repository, and no facility is yet available for monitored retrievable storage".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News