EnergyFederalJudicialAppeals Court Tosses Suit from Environmentalists, Midland Oil Company Contesting Nuclear Waste Storage Permit

Various suits against the NRC and the storage site linger in courts across the country.
January 27, 2023
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals tossed a challenge from anti-nuclear organization Beyond Nuclear, environmental groups the Sierra Club and Don’t Waste Michigan, and a Midland-based oil company against the approval of a spent nuclear fuel interim storage permit for a facility in West Texas.

In September 2021, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a permit application for the storage of spent nuclear fuel at an Andrews County facility. Interim Storage Partners is jointly owned by Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists — the latter of which has operated a storage facility for low-level radioactive waste at the site for more than a decade.

During the second special session of 2021, Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature abruptly passed legislation banning the storage of high-level radioactive waste, including spent nuclear fuel, in response to the NRC. That led to the state suing the NRC over the permit, a case still pending in court.

But the permit approval also sparked other lawsuits from a collection of activists, interest groups, and Fasken Oil & Ranch, the Midland company, consolidated into one proceeding.

On Wednesday, the court dismissed the group’s various claims and tossed the suit; Beyond Nuclear contended that the NRC acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” the environmental groups alleged the agency “ignor[ed] deficiencies in the project’s environmental impact statement,” and Fasken asserted that it was wrongfully denied the ability to insert into the record its arguments against issuance of the permit by the NRC.

The Texan Tumbler

Kevin Kamps, a spokesman for Beyond Nuclear, told The Texan, “We are certainly disappointed and unfortunately the ruling focuses on a procedural technicality.” Kamps said that there is a similar permit and suit in development in New Mexico for a planned interim storage site there. He’s also optimistic that a ruling in the State of Texas’ suit will help their case here, potentially creating contradicting court decisions.

He added that “we’re not going anywhere” and hopes that courts will consider whether the NRC even has the authority from Congress to grant these permits — which he argues the agency doesn’t.

Fasken is also part of the State of Texas’ lawsuit against the NRC. David Fasken launched the oil company in 1979 but died in 1982. His ex-wife Barbara Fasken, then remarried to Robert Dollar Dickson, inherited the company and her two step-grandsons — Roger and Scott Dickson who live in California and Nevada, respectively — now own the Fasken company.

Neither Fasken Oil & Ranch nor the Sierra Club immediately returned a request for comment on the ruling.

Each entity alleges it is unsafe to store the spent nuclear fuel at the prospective facility. Interim Storage Partners contends that the storage methods are safe and tested against all kinds of calamities.

In March 2021, WCS Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Communication Elicia Sanchez stated that should the state ban such storage but the permit was still awarded, the company would not construct the facility. “We just wouldn’t construct or operate (the facility),” she told the Andrews County News. “It would be a license not used.”

With the State of Texas’ law against the storage of such waste — which exempts the places in Texas that already store spent nuclear fuel at operating reactors, including the state’s two nuclear plants and at various university research centers — no movement has been made on the site.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.