Spent Nuclear Fuel is the least of our cancer causing worries:

From the moment we get up in the morning and start our day off with a hot cup of coffee, we have started a reaction to the thousands of cancer-causing agents we come into contact on a daily bases. Cancer is the second-most-common cause of death in the United States, after heart disease. All cancers are a result of damage or genetic mutations in our DNA.

But the many reasons individual cancer cases pop up in people are complex. Some are genetic and passed down from one generation to the next, and others are a result of things in our environment that we inhale, eat, or use.

Some cases of cancer are out of our control, determined by genetic defects and predispositions passed down from one generation to the next or spurred by genetic changes we undergo through our lifetimes. But we also know that breathing in certain substances, eating specific things, and even using some kinds of plastics, ups the “risk” of developing some deadly cancers.

One risk that is not even remotely probable is acute radiation cancer-causing poisons from nuclear power plants and nuclear fuel storage and transportation.

Why? The answer to that is quite simple. Anything that references the word nuclear is well respected and universally accepted to control and manage the safety of our health and the environment. Every country has regulatory agencies to oversee the development and use of radioactive devices whether it is for research, medical, electrical power, and many other commercial uses. The risk of cancer-causing radiation is extremely low, almost near zero, and no deaths in today’s modern society.

And yet, the State of New Mexico’s Government seems to still be hanging on to the 80-year-old legacy of the Manhattan Project from the 1940s instead of the miraculous benefits that Madame (Marie) Curie achieved in the 40 years prior with low-dose radiation as a medical miracle, saving millions of lives that would have died otherwise.

Here the State is again, deciding whether to move forward with the HI-STORE CISF project or not. The State has made so many bad financial decisions in the past few years, it would be great if they finally made another good decision as they did with WIPP and URENCO.

Viruses are not curable, only treatable.

Who in the general public has taken the time to seriously study the effects of viruses on our health? Most people get their understanding of the “effect” from sound bite news and social media. We are being bombarded with data that we have no way of making sense of it. We have become dependent on media pundits.

The media is building false hope that the answer to COVID-19 is a vaccine being developed by the end of the year. Vaccines are not the cure-all answer. Vaccines are only a treatment. Many viruses mutate continuously, so vaccines have to be developed continuously also. The best protection against diseases caused by viruses is immunization (antibodies).

When there is no immunization or vaccine developed, we have to practice safety procedures such as washing our hands more often, wearing a face mask around others, and keeping a safe distance to avoid contact with positive virus cases. Unfortunately, these practices are not being done by everyone, so these virus predators will prey on anything that has a living cell – primarily us. A compromised immune system will not fight them off.

There would be no pandemic if basic science practices had been adhered to in China. Remember Ebola in Africa and Zika in Brazil? Both were isolated and controlled locally so there was no worldwide pandemic. Brazil even held the Olympics during that time. No one took their eye off the ball in either of those scenarios, which are still active in those regions.

I wish I could say the same about the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. After 3 months of 24-hour coverage, several distractions have replaced that focus. My fear is those distractions will continue to escalate and the silent virus killer will counter attack all the progress that has been made. An open economy is the best solution to manage the pandemic.

Human Trial Successfully Treated COVID-19 Using Radiation:

Several weeks ago I had my annual physical with my local cardiologist at Kymera Clinic and I asked him if I could get a chest X-ray this time. Of course, he asked me why I wanted it and I told him it was a treatment of low dose radiation to fight off any possible viruses that were in my lungs. And yes, he refused to give me the X-ray for that reason and told me if I wanted a low dose of radiation, all I had to do was talk on my cell phone for 40 minutes. Why 40 minutes?

The cell phone receives low-frequency radio waves (energy) where an X-ray uses higher frequency radio waves (more energy) and provides the radiation in higher doses. Don’t panic, we all receive low dose radiation from the sun and earth crust every day, which is called background radiation that provides life on this planet.

In the early years of the 20th century (1900 to 1950) X-rays were the standard procedure to detect and treat pneumonia. Thanks to Marie Curie, X-rays were also used to save millions of lives in WWI from infectious war wounds.

Well, here we are again. Human medical trials have begun on severely ill COVID-19 patients using low-doses of radiation. The first results on a very small group at Emory University Hospital were published and the results were quite extraordinary. Their median age was 90 with a range from 64 to 94, four were female, four were African-American, and one was Caucasian. Radiation and viruses are not discriminatory.

These patients were given a single low-dose of radiation (1.5 Gy) to both lungs, delivered by a front and back beam configuration (like an X-ray). Patients were in an out of the Radiotherapy Department in 10 to 15 minutes. Within 24 hours, four of the patients showed rapid improvement in oxygenation and mental status (more awake, alert, and talkative) and were discharged from the hospital 12 days later.

While the medical field already knows that radiation is an effective treatment for cancer, there still needs to be several double-blind test studies of low dose on COVID-19 for political reasons. Italy, Spain and the US are currently conducting long term studies.

Time to reconsider shuttering coal power.

Farmington, Grant, Gallup, and other smaller communities in Northwest New Mexico have been hit the hardest with the number of cases and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some might think that this could be the third economic strike against the communities after the uranium bust of the 1980s and the more recent 2008 O&G bust. But they would be wrong. The third economic strike against Farmington and the communities of northwest New Mexico will be the forced closure of the San Juan Generating Station and adjacent coal mines.

The Energy Transition Act (ETA) signed into law by Governor Lujan-Grisham, greatly influenced by the environmental lobbies, requires zero emissions for electricity generation by 2050. The coal power San Juan Generating Station (SJGS) and adjacent coal mines were targeted for 2022. SJGS might be considered low hanging fruit and would have the greatest impact on emission reduction, but again, that would be wrong too.

It is not possible to achieve zero-emission or even net-zero emission with the ETA’s requirement to replace the coal generating stations in New Mexico with industrial wind or solar farms with combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) to back up the daily intermittent pauses in electricity production. Carbon capture with sequestration (CCS) would be required for both SJGS or any CCGT power plant.

It doesn’t make sense to replace SJGS that still has 35 years left on a 75 year designed life cycle power plant and hundreds of employees with a wind or solar farm that only has a 25-year life cycle on the wind turbines or solar panels and only requires 25 employees for operation and maintenance. Even with CCS added, neither will achieve 100% zero emissions, but both will achieve reduced emission.

So Governor Lujan-Grisham, please reconsider shutting down SJGS and let PNM sell the plant to Enchant Energy so they can invest in carbon capture technology to meet the ETA requirements and save hundreds of jobs as well. As Paul Gessing said in 5/30/2020 RDR Op-Ed “do no [more] harm” to the Four Corners.

New Mexico ETA requires Carbon Capture

The Energy Transition Act (ETA) requires carbon capture technology if it is to achieve zero-emission for electricity generation or at least near-zero-emissions. Why? ETA requires all coal power generation to be replaced with wind and solar. Wind and solar are so intermittent that there needs to be a backup system and that can be either grid-scale batteries or combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) with carbon capture use and storage (CCUS).

Grid-scale batteries are far too expensive and don’t last nearly long enough, limiting the role they can play on the grid, according to James Temple, MIT Technology Review. “If we plan to rely on them for massive amounts of storage as more renewables come online—rather than turning to a broader mix of low-carbon sources like nuclear and natural gas with carbon capture technology—we could be headed down a dangerously unaffordable path.”

This unaffordable path is exactly where New Mexico is going with their ETA. Not only is lithium-ion battery technology too expensive for this ETA role, but limited battery life means it’s not well suited to filling gaps during the days, weeks, and even months when wind and solar generation is sometimes more intermittent than normal through seasonal dips.

ExxonMobil is a sponsor of the National Carbon Capture Center, a U.S. Department of Energy research facility, and is a founding member of the Global CCS Institute. As we all know, Exxon is also one of the major players in the Permian Basin O&G extraction here in New Mexico and it appears they are investing in the future of electricity generation here as well.

Yes, the only practical path for the ETA to achieve Governor Lujan-Grisham’s desired 100% zero emission by 2050 is to implement CCGT with CCUS for baseload electricity generation (or nuclear). The wind and solar farms become secondary energy sources with 25-year life cycles and an eyesore on our enchanted landscape if not properly decommissioned.

Sagamore Wind Project has a 25 year life cycle:

The New Mexico Energy Transition Act (ETA), passed as law in 2019, requires that all electricity generation has to be zero-emission by 2050.

Recently Xcel Energy said, “Our billion-dollar Sagamore Wind Project hit a recent construction milestone, and topped out the first of 240 wind turbines [with a natural gas power plant backup]. The project will generate enough electricity to power 194,000 homes annually while saving customers tens of millions of dollars and reducing carbon emissions [over the next 25 years].”

And I say, “Wow!”. That is quite a statement from Xcel. If the latest wind turbine technology will only last 25 years, that means every wind turbine already erected in New Mexico and every wind turbine erected over the next 5 years will be obsolete by 2050.

To meet the 2050 zero-emission requirement of the ETA law, every wind turbine in New Mexico will have to be replaced. That presents two very serious problems: the cost of replacement and the cost and location of decommissioning the old obsolete wind turbine’s non-recyclable parts.

If the wind turbines are not replaced, then the electricity generation will have to be by natural gas power plants, which generate GHG if carbon capture is not perfected by 2050. From my perspective, it appears that the O&G Industry is going to leverage electricity generation in New Mexico and all utilities, big or small, will violate the New Mexico ETA emission laws.

Can I say “WOW!” again? I said in previous letters that this ETA was going to be a boondoggle and it looks like the state has another “sunk cost” program the taxpayers are going to get stuck with.

NRC-2018-0052 – Burlington Northern Santa Fe will be the railroad carrier:

NRC-2018-0052 – Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) will be the railroad carrier for the Spent Nuclear Fuel to HI-STORE CISF in New Mexico

While rail transport is not part of this DEIS, it is very important to widen the discussion to include the safety of rail transport in the State of New Mexico as a side note of consideration.

New Mexico is part of the BNSF Southern Transcon, which runs from the ports in southern California to the Midwest. In New Mexico, it runs from Gallup to Clovis. BNSF owns 1,125 of route miles and has track rights to another 515 within our state. The Belen rail yard is one of the busiest locations in the entire BNSF network in terms of trains per day.

About 9,000 carloads of New Mexico agriculture products and 8,000 carloads of consumer products are exported to other markets on BNSF railways. Another 73,900 carloads of industrial and energy products leave the state via BNSF. A total of 4.5 million carloads of freight move through New Mexico by BNSF annually.

BNSF has invested approximately $555 million to expand and maintain its New Mexico network over the past five years, including $80 million in 2019. That investment included a complete upgrade of the Clovis to Carlsbad/Loving track. Only the extended track east of Carlsbad to the CISF site is included in this DEIS.

There are several small communities and industries along the Clovis to Carlsbad rail line where O&G, basalt, farming, and other commercial products move in and out of New Mexico. In most communities, the railroads travels directly through the center of the town at very low speeds. These communities need to be well informed about the safety of the specialty trains that will transport the radioactive material.

NRC-2018-0052 Reason ten: SNF is a multi-billion dollar industry:

NRC-2018-0052 Reason ten: SNF is a multi-billion dollar industry for the State of New Mexico, subsidies not required.

After the Rail Runner, Film Credits, Super Computer, Spaceport America, the ART, Facebook, and most recently the ETA (wind and solar), one has to wonder how New Mexico seems to be unable to attract new business opportunities without having to give up huge subsidies in the form of deferred taxes and some cases, direct cash payments. Every single one of those misguided efforts has turned into major boondoggles for the state with more sunk cost than revenue.

Now the three most successful industries in the state, O&G, Farm/Ranch, and Tourism have been devastated by a single virus – COVID-19. What the state needs now is an industry that is immune to the economic conditions of the world markets and any environmental disaster like a worldwide virus pandemic. It needs to be an industry with little or no effect on the existing industries in the state.

HI-STORE CISF is a multi-billion capital investment with a multi-million dollar steady revenue stream for the state bank account. New Mexico has a golden opportunity to invest in an industry that will not be affected by the surrounding environments or require a substantial cost to attract to the state. There is no required subsidies cost to the state, except to approve the project to be developed.

For those with a vision beyond today will realize that this investment in HI-STORE CISF is not just about an interim storage facility with a 40-year NRC license. It is the beginning of a long term advanced multi-billion dollar nuclear fuel industry that will last beyond the years of anyone alive today.

With 99.9% of the stored material in the spent nuclear fuel rod as recyclable and reusable as molten salt fuel, only 0.01% is unusable radioactive fission products that could easily and safely be permanently stored in a deep borehole or even WIPP, for as long as WIPP is in production.

NRC-2018-0052 Reason nine: HI-STORE CISF site has enough future acreage:

NRC-2018-0052 Reason nine: HI-STORE CISF site has enough acreage for a future heat transfer or liquid fuel conversion facility.

Southeastern New Mexico is the ideal location for Holtec’s HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF). The HI-STORE CISF will be located on a small and isolated portion of a thousand acres of undeveloped ELEA land that is geographically stable, with a dry and arid climate that is ideal for the underground dry fuel storage system.

There will be an easy highway and railway access to the facility site. Tucked halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico, it is only 24 miles north of the WIPP facility. HI_STORE CISF also makes up one of the site points of a nuclear triangle, also referred to as the Nuclear Corridor, with WIPP and URENCO the other two site points.

The project will create jobs for local workers, boosting local incomes that will lead to an improvement in the local infrastructure. Furthermore, the New Mexico populace is highly-educated in the nuclear industry, with a proven and safe history of shaping America’s nuclear energy development.

HI-STORE CISF is more than an interim storage facility. It could be the transition location for the recycle and reuse of solid spent nuclear fuel into liquid nuclear fuel for advanced molten salt reactors, the future of the nuclear energy industry. HI-STORE CISF will have the capacity to store the current tonnage of SNF, as well as the generated SNF for decades.

There will be enough stored SNF to power thousands of molten salt reactors around the world for hundreds of years. When you add depleted uranium (DU) to the equation, it increases the fuel base capacity by 10X. There will be no reason to extract more natural uranium from the ground for centuries, if ever again.

A molten salt fuel conversion facility could be built on the same 1,000-acre industrial park for the easy and safe transfer of materials from the storage silos to the conversion building where solid fuel would be converted into chloride salt-based molten fuel to be reshaped into semi-harden cylinders to be stored back into the original canister with a new lattice and placed in the original silo as inventory until needed.

NRC-2018-0052 Reason eight: New Mexico already knows uranium:

NRC-2018-0052 Reason eight: New Mexico already knows how to manage, process, transport and store uranium.

New Mexico has the second-largest uranium reserve in the United States. However, there is no mining activity at the current time because of its legacy of poor mining practices during the cold war era. All the milled uranium processed at URENCO in New Mexico is transported from Canada, Wyoming or Texas. The United States is fourth in the world in known deposits, behind Australia, Canada, and Kazakhstan. The United States also has the third-largest thorium reserves in the world which is also a nuclear fuel element.

The two uranium mining techniques that have been used in Texas are open-pit mining and in situ mining. In situ mining involves injecting fluids into the ground to dissolve minerals, then pumping the fluids to the surface where they are processed to recover the minerals. In situ mining is the preferred method because it is a very safe and clean mining procedure.

URENCO currently manufactures low enriched uranium (LEU) of ~5% U235 needed for fission in an LWR. URENCO can also produce a HALEU up to ~20% U235 that is needed for some of the small modular reactors, like NuScale and others. All this uranium is transported in by truck and rail and the end product, nuclear fuel, is transported out to fuel assembly plants in other states. The unused uranium, called depleted uranium is partially stored locally at URENCO and also transported to other sites. There is approximately 183,000 tons of radioactive depleted uranium (DU) stored in the US which can still be used for nuclear fuel in fast neutron liquid reactors.

There are approximately 83,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) laced with transuranic and fission products that need to be temporarily stored for later use with advanced nuclear reactors. GE Prism liquid reactor will used SNF as its fuel base; TerraPower Energy plans to use DU as its fuel base; and Elysium Industries plans to use SNF, DU, Thorium, WGPu, along with fission products as its fuel base.

The final destination of all nuclear fuel by-products (alleged waste) is to be consumed by advanced reactor technology and not passive storage underground for thousands of years.