Stored Nuclear Fuel (SNF); A Profit Center for NM:

Recently I was asked why I advocate for the aggregate storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in New Mexico. The bottom line for me is revenue for the State of New Mexico. Sometimes, I am appalled at the decisions our state government makes to encourage new businesses to come to New Mexico. There have been some boondoggles that residents have had to pay for through taxes.

It is not often when a business opportunity comes along that is not demanding a financial break on taxes and fees but will bring new money and good-paying jobs to the state. The HI-STORE Nuclear Fuel Storage Facility proposed project for southeast NM is one of those opportunities. It will bring $billion in capital investments in the state and generate $million in taxes and fees for New Mexico.

New Mexico has always been a leader in nuclear research and development through Los Alamos and Sandia Labs. Three areas of technology are weapons, nuclear reactors, and radioactive waste management (WIPP). LANL and SNL have brought together some intellectual minds to solve the many challenges of all things nuclear. They have provided a substantial part of New Mexico GDP.

The nuclear energy industry is the only energy industry that stores and manages all its unused fuel waste safely. It is the aggregate of spent nuclear fuel that presents another private business opportunity in New Mexico. The proposed HI-STORE will provide a consolidated storage facility with subsurface dry silos completely encapsulated in steel and concrete.

The sealed nuclear fuel canisters will be placed in the subsurface silos for future recycling and reuse in advance molten salt fast reactors (MCSFR). There is a substantial revenue (new money) stream to be made for the surrounding communities and the state from the construction and maintenance of this nuclear fuel storage facility. This stored nuclear fuel revenue stream could last for centuries if the politicians and environmentalists don’t get in the way.

HI-STORE could provide the nuclear fuel inventory for the 21st century and beyond, for the next era of reactors; molten chloride salt fast reactors (MCSFR). These newer reactors could consume all of the unused nuclear fuel stored at HI-STORE over the next 400 years at today’s capacity of 20% clean electricity for the US national grids before any new uranium extractions would be needed. When you include all the stored depleted uranium, that same electrical capacity could last 4,000 years.

If we build thousands of MCSFR around the entire world, we would still not have to be concerned with running out of nuclear fuel. Watch this video to see how this would happen:

Will we run out of uranium and thorium? We did the math: – YouTube


This video explains how the Holtec UMAX Storage System is constructed. The HI-STORE CISF project in New Mexico will use the exact system with any improvements that were experienced building 3 UMAX systems in the US so far. This video is a great teaching tool for anyone who wants to know how spent nuclear fuel can be stored in the US for the next 100-300 years.

(9) The Holtec Spent Fuel Storage System at SONGS – YouTube

Annual Letter to NM Governor about HI-STORE CISF


The Honorable Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham,

There is only one reason to oppose the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project in Eddy and Lea counties – FEAR of nuclear. There are many reasons to support this project, such as its SAFE. The difference between those two words is RISK. There are usually two sides to every situation, and I have studied all sides of nuclear for the last ten years as a retirement hobby. As such, I have met many smart people on both sides of the nuclear debate. It is from this self-taught knowledge that I can support nuclear in New Mexico from a very pragmatic perspective.

The best way to overcome fear is through knowledge. It is the unknown and all the “what if’s” our conscience develops from past experiences. Of course, the only way to overcome that is to acknowledge it and respect it. That is what a pragmatic person does with everything we encounter in life, starting with fire. To this day, I still fear the hazards of fire, but I do use it safely. Not everyone respects fire the way it should be, but with nuclear, the entire world respects it and takes every precaution to use it and manage it safely.

The United States has always been the leader in setting the regulations for nuclear use from the “Atoms for Peace” program to the present. Our fleet of energy reactors is the safest in the world if you can be safer than safe. The only unsafe entity is one that has caused death. No one in the United States has ever died from acute radiation poisoning working within or living near a nuclear power plant or any nuclear storage facility since the beginning of the commercial nuclear energy era, approximately 70 years now. No other industry can state that record, especially our very own O&G industry and even our dairy producers (both have methane exposures).

After fear, the number one concern about the HI-STORE CISF project is: how long is interim or how many years will the stored nuclear fuel be present at the proposed site? Once spent fuel rods are placed in a safe canister-cask combination, it only needs to stay contained for 300 years while the contents decay to an inert matter state. One of the worst disinformation myths is that the stored nuclear fuel is dangerous for 10,000 years or more based on the half-life of only one of the elements: plutonium.

There is a technology that can eliminate all unused uranium, plutonium, and other fission products that make up stored nuclear fuel, all within 100 years, without any by-products or waste. That technology is molten chloride salt fast reactors being developed right here in the United States by companies like Bill Gates’ TerraPower Energy and Ed Pheil’s Elysium Industries.

Unused (spent) nuclear fuel from today’s fleet of light water reactors (LWR), should never be buried in deep underground repositories like Yucca Mt. or any borehole strategy.

Stored solid nuclear fuel rods should be retrievable. They can be recycled and reused by converting to a salt-based liquid fuel, known as molten salt-based uranium fuel. The new molten salt fuel would be the fuel source for advanced molten chloride (fast) reactors or fluoride molten salt (thermal) reactors. There is an ongoing development of this technology around the world by other nations like Canada, Indonesia, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, England, France and intended for use in many other countries to electrify the world.

I ask only one thing of you. Please take another look at how safe nuclear energy and fuel management is. New Mexico should continue to participate in this future energy source of the future. Thank you.

Martin Kral, Roswell, NM

Sustainable nuclear fuel stream from NM:

In 2010, New Mexico became one of the nuclear fuel sources for the existing light water reactor (LWR) fleet here in the United States. Unfortunately, there are financial reasons and political forces that are causing these LWR power plants to shutter prematurely with many decades of productive electricity generation.

These closures put a lot of pressure on the Federal Administration’s non-fossil fuel replacements policy to meet climate change management requirements by 2050. Wind and solar with battery backup has failed to provide consistent electricity to the national grid so far and doesn’t appear to be a realistic strategy.

Fortunately, there is a future source of clean energy, advanced molten salt reactor (MSR), with worldwide development efforts to replace all existing electricity generation; coal power generating stations, combined-cycle natural gas power stations, wind and solar industrial farms, biomass causing deforestation and even decommissioned LWR nuclear power plants.

These MSR’s are going to use a molten salt (liquid) fuel stream. The supply chain for that fuel starts with all the solid spent uranium fuel rods left unused from the last 60 years of LWR operations. All that spent solid fuel is currently stored in a canister/cask on concrete pads at each nuclear power plant site.

The conversion process to convert solid fuel rods to a molten salt solution requires a facility. This facility would remove the zirconium cladding, exposing the ceramic uranium pellets to be chopped up into a sandy texture, and put into a vat of molten chlorine to chemically separate the impurities (noble gases and noble metals), leaving just the uranium, plutonium, and fission products. These three radioactive materials are the base components of the molten salt fuel source for the molten chloride salt fast reactors (MCSFR).

The conversion facility should be consolidated and centralized to minimize cost. There are two types of molten salt fuels, 1) seed fuel (mostly plutonium) for a new startup reactor and 2) feed fuel (mostly uranium) continuously fed into the MCSFR without shutting down the reactor. These MSR’s can run 40 to 60 years and would be recycled and refurbish for another 60 years without any nuclear fuel waste to manage and store.

There are two practical places to manufacture the molten salt nuclear fuel. The National Lab network because they are already licensed to handle the plutonium for the seed fuel and at a consolidated interim storage facility like HI-STORE CISF for the feed fuel (different NRC license). HI-STORE could be THE STORE for nuclear fuel and possibly to export it to other countries. Both seed and feed nuclear fuels can come from New Mexico.

HI-STORE CISF is a proposed $3 billion capital investment in New Mexico without subsidies from the state will generate $24 million per year in taxes and fees, as well as very good-paying jobs in construction and operation. HI-STORE CISF is on 300 acres of the 1,000-acre storage site in Lea County.

There is plenty of room to also build a molten salt conversion facility at the same location so that fuel can be processed on an “as-needed basis” or inventoried in subsurface silos, just like the solid fuel rods are. This conversion facility has the potential to generate a multi-billion dollar industry.

Nuclear fuel storage and nuclear fuel conversion would complement the existing WIPP nuclear waste storage plant and the existing URENCO Enrichment Plant with its stored depleted uranium, just down the road. Nuclear will be the future energy source here on earth, and HI-STORE could be the molten fuel source depot for interplanetary travels and colonization.

Nuclear in New Mexico (and Mars):

The New Mexico Governor and Legislature have taken a very short-sighted position on New Mexico’s nuclear industry, especially with their opposition to expanding stored nuclear waste at WIPP and stored nuclear fuel at the proposed HI-STORE CISF. New Mexico has been storing transuranic nuclear waste at WIPP for the last 21 years and nuclear uranium fuel at URENCO since 2010. Both operations are located in the middle of the Permian Basin and pose little to no risk based on experience.

Several letters sent to the DOE/NRC by politicians in both New Mexico and Texas have outlined the perceived risk and danger to the safety and health concerns of the general population and the environment. They have even called out New Mexico as a “nuclear dump” when the reality is; nuclear storage is safer than all other stored and non-stored materials because of strict regulations and safe storage encasement. Nuclear in New Mexico is safe because there are no deaths from acute radiation exposure at any nuclear storage facility in the US. That is not the situation for the O&G Industry.

New Mexico’s nuclear industry is not just about nuclear waste storage or nuclear fuel storage. What most people do not know or understand is that New Mexico is also about nuclear reactor research and development at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Many reactor variations have been designed, developed, prototyped, and tested over the last 50 years, only one has transitioned out of the Lab – Space Nuclear Power Corporation (also known as SpaceNukes).

This New Mexico corporation is going to market a micro fission reactor to power spacecraft and space colonies. Elon Musk is making great strides in spaceship development with his Space X Crew Dragon rockets with flights to and from the International Space Station. He recently announced a new Starship spacecraft to be used for flights to and from the Moon and Mars space colonies using space nuclear reactors. I am not sure if Space X will be using the SpaceNukes reactors or not. But someone will.

New Mexico has the greatest opportunity to expand its aerospace industry. Along with SpaceNukes, Spaceport America is finally ready to start sub-orbital space fights for the rich and famous. This project took 10 years to develop. Hopefully, the gross receipt taxes on the ticket to ride will offset the sunk cost up until now.

New Mexico is on the cusp of many great economic opportunities, but our politicians have to make sound decisions based on existing experiences, such as stored nuclear fuel. Opposition to HI-STORE CISF, influenced by anti-nuclear advocacy groups, is funded by competitive sources. Even Rod Adams, a historically pro-nuclear fellow, has been compromised. See his open letter to Holtec and supporters (that’s me). I do not believe he has the right message.

Response Letter from Senators Heinrich & Udall, NM

I have been writing a series of letters to the New Mexico’s US Senators, US Reps, NM Governor and NM Legislature. I have gotten very few responses but Senator Heinrich finally sent me this detailed email. Here is his response to me and the letter that he sent to the NRC. He is requesting another delay to the NRC decision because of the Pandemic. What he fails to state is that the NRC has conducted many review sessions directly with the public since 2018, two years now. Most concerns have already been addressed, but still they want to delay until the pandemic has passed. Hopefully that will happen on Nov 4th. 2020.

October 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Kral,

Thank you for contacting me about the management of used nuclear fuel and Holtec International’s proposal to build a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in southeastern New Mexico.  I appreciate knowing your thoughts and concerns on this important issue.

My top priority with any new regulations or projects involving radioactive materials is protecting public health and safety.  As you may know, the nation currently does not have a licensed permanent repository to dispose of used nuclear fuel from commercial power plants or defense-related facilities.  I understand the need for and support establishing a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel, and the final location of such a permanent repository must be determined through sound scientific reasoning, transparency, and engagement and consent from affected stakeholders.  I have serious concerns about proposals to create a CISF to store nuclear waste when the establishment of a permanent nuclear waste repository still has not been resolved.

 I also believe in the critical importance of public participation in the development of approaches for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.  This importance of public participation is further elevated during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which limits the public’s ability to attend in-person meetings, gather information, and provide input about important issues of concern.  For these reasons, along with Senator Tom Udall (NM), I sent a letter on August 18, 2020, to the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), expressing our  opposition to the NRC’s decision to substitute in-person public meetings about the CISF draft environmental impact statement with remote webinars.  As there are no legal deadlines requiring the NRC to complete its review process by a certain time, the NRC should not rush this process and should pause its timeline for reviewing the CISF license application until such time as the pandemic is under control enough that the NRC can safely and effectively live up to its commitment to provide in-person meetings in New Mexico.The issue of consolidated interim storage of nuclear waste in New Mexico has profound health and safety impacts for citizens of New Mexico, and New Mexicans must be given every opportunity to understand these impacts as well as comment on the NRC’s draft environmental impact statement findings.

Please know that I will continue to monitor this situation closely and will keep your thoughts in mind as I work with my colleagues in the United States Senate to establish a comprehensive, consent-based policy to safely dispose of our nation’s nuclear waste.  Again, thank you for contacting me.  I hope you will continue keeping me informed of the issues important to you.

Sign-up to receive email updates for the latest news on issues important to you.



United States Senator

Here is the letter to the NRC:

Re-store, Re-cycle, and Re-use Stored Nuclear Fuel:

On May 26, 1958, the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States, Shippingport Atomic Power Station, was opened by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as part of his Atoms for Peace program. From that very first day, the United States has been producing alleged nuclear waste from more than 100 nuclear power plants across the country. Today there are more than 83,000 tons of this alleged waste stored in dry cask at every site.

While the storage of these casks is perfectly safe as is, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, a federal law, requires the United States established a comprehensive national program for the safe, permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes. There are two different types of waste; high-level waste from the weapons programs (mostly plutonium) and spent nuclear fuel (mostly uranium) from the commercial industry. To this day, the US Government has failed to execute this law. Therefore, alleged waste materials are at each nuclear plant site, even the decommissioned sites, and weapons-grade plutonium at DOE storage sites. What is needed is a reactor closed-loop fuel cycle that was never provided by the Nuclear Industry.

Several US companies are developing advanced reactors that will use the store nuclear fuel to implement a final disposition reactor closed-loop cycle of stored fuels without a new fuel waste stream. Three processes can accomplish a closed-loop fuel cycle; consolidate at a central facility, convert from solid fuel to a molten salt fuel, and provide the fuel stream for future advance reactors.

Re-store existing stored spent nuclear fuel (alleged waste):

In 2017, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. It authorizes the Department of Energy (DOE) to enter into new contracts (or modify existing contracts) with the licensee of an interim consolidated storage facility to take title to and store either high-level weapons-grade fuel or spent fuel (SNF) of domestic origin.

Holtec International and its partner, the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), have launched the licensing of an autonomous consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in southeastern New Mexico on land owned by ELEA.

HI-STORE CISF satisfies the Federal Government’s long-standing obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel (SNF) by providing a safe, secure, temporary, retrievable, and centralized storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Re-cycle existing solid fuel rods in dry storage at HI-STORE CISF:

There are only two practical options for a permanent solution to SNF: 1) bury it deep in the bowels of the earth forever or 2) recycle it through advanced reactors designed to consume the remaining 100% of the energy still within the spent uranium fuel rods.

Recycling stored nuclear fuel at HI-STORE CISF, the solid fuel rods have to be converted to a molten salt fuel base that is compatible with the molten chloride salt fast reactor. The conversion could occur at HI-STORE CISF as a new facility or the National Labs in New Mexico.

The conversion of the solid fuel rods to liquid requires removing the zirconium cladding (valuable by-product), chopping up the pellets, and throwing them into a vat of molten chloride salt where the non-fuel materials (noble gases and noble metals) separate from the molten salt base of uranium, plutonium, and fission products. The molten salt fuel mixture is cooled and packaged back into the HI-STORE silos awaiting shipment as a Category 1 transport to commercial power plants.

Re-use newly recycled molten nuclear fuel in advanced molten salt reactors:

To use the recycled molten nuclear fuel, a fleet of advanced molten chloride salt fast reactors would have to exist. These reactors will consume 100% of all the energy in the molten salt fuel consisting of all the existing stored fuel sources; spent uranium, natural uranium, depleted uranium, reactor-grade plutonium, weapons-grade plutonium, thorium, and even the fission products. These fast reactors would be continuously fed molten salt fuel during non-stop operation for up to 60 years without ever having to shut down the reactor core. A new reactor core replacement would allow continuation for another 60 or more years using the same fuel, therefore no nuclear waste.

The HI-STORE, Consolidated Interim Storage Facility, is a component to fulfill the Government goal to aggregate the used nuclear fuel canisters presently scattered across the country at dozens of independent used fuel storage installations into one suitable location. This facility is needed to close the nuclear fuel cycle and provide the fuel for advanced molten chloride salt fast reactors and technically eliminate sociopolitical fear of alleged waste.

Closing the nuclear fuel cycle:

TO: Nov 3rd 2020 Election Winners and others:

Since the very beginning of the light water reactor technology, there was an open end of what to do with the unused portion of the radioactive uranium fuel. Then the reactor could no longer fission the uranium, refueling with new enriched uranium fuel rod assemblies was required. The used up fuel rods also referred to as spent fuel, are water-cooled and eventually dry stored at the nuclear power plant site. Final disposal for the spent nuclear fuel was needed to close the fuel cycle for this radioactive material.

There are only two practical options for final disposition: 1) bury it deep in the bowels of the earth forever or 2) recycle it through advanced reactors designed to consume the remaining 99% of the energy still within the spent uranium fuel rods. That remaining stored energy could generate decades of additional clean electricity for the national grid. That energy could also create hydrogen fuel, desalinate saline water, create intense industrial heat for manufacturing steel, aluminum, cement, and many other materials. Spent nuclear fuel is “stored nuclear energy.”

The United States has over 83,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in storage and another 183,000 tons of depleted uranium in storage leftover from the manufacturing process of the solid uranium fuel rods used in the light water reactors. All this stored uranium is fuel for molten salt reactor technology that could last for hundreds of years. Stored uranium could sustain enough energy for a population of 10 billion people for centuries.

A fleet of advance molten salt reactors would be needed, around the world, on every continent and every island. These reactors would be scalable from 50 MW/e to 1200 MW/e and more by daisy-chaining the reactors where more concentrated power is needed. However, the ideal grid configuration would be to set up local area grids and inter-connect them with transmission lines when backup power is required.

Molten salt reactor technology will close the nuclear fuel cycle so there is no more alleged nuclear waste.

Unused Nuclear Fuel – An Ideal Solution:

TO: Nov 3rd 2020 Election Winners and others:

When it comes to the discussion of what to do with the alleged nuclear waste from commercial power plants, the solution has always been to bury it in a deep repository underground. This solution was based on the limited knowledge and understanding of nuclear science and technology from the 1940s when the nuclear power industry was in its infancy. In the last ~60 years, there have been many technological advances that now make the deep repository solution obsolete. There is another solution: recycle and reuse in advanced fast neutron reactors.

The alleged nuclear waste consists of two types of radioactive material; the 96% unused portion of the original uranium and the 4% transmuted new fission products. This material is considered a waste by-product from the atom-splitting fission process that occurs inside the reactor core. All of the radioactive material from the reactor core can be recycled and reused in newer fast reactor designs, developed to consume all of the spent fuel to create more heat for power.

The Trump Administrations cancellation of the failed Yucca Mountain deep storage repository in Nevada and the cancellation of MOX (mixed oxide) solid fuel reprocessing has left the radioactive material in limbo until a better-innovated solution comes along. That solution has been designed and prototyped by changing the solid-fueled water-cooled reactor to a molten salt fueled fast neutron reactor.

For this fast reactor solution to solve the dilemma of the alleged nuclear waste, several processes have to be in place.

RETRIEVABLE STORAGE OF SOLID FUEL RODS: The fuel rods are partially cooled in water ponds before they transfer to above-ground concrete cask (silos) for temporary dry storage. Or the fuel rods transfer to a subsurface silo pad located at the nuclear power plant site. HI-STORE CISF, by Holtec International, would be one of those sites to store retrievable solid fuel rods in subsurface concrete silos for many decades in the isolated high plains of New Mexico.

CONVERSION OF SOLID FUEL TO LIQUID SALT FUEL: The solid fuel rods consist of ceramic pellets encased in a zirconium cladding group together as an assembly with radioactive uranium and fission products. The conversion of the solid fuel rods to liquid requires removing the zirconium cladding (valuable by-product), chopping up the pellets, and throwing them into a vat of molten chloride salt where the non-fuel materials separate from the uranium, plutonium, and fission products. The molten salt fuel mixture is cooled and packaged for storage and shipment to a molten salt fast reactor commercial power plant. These semi-harden ingots are still considered high-level radioactive material handled the same way the original solid spent fuel, in a protective cask.

DEVELOPMENT OF A MOLTEN SALT FAST REACTOR: There are many development efforts around the world to implement advanced molten salt nuclear reactor technology. The ideal reactor to solve the alleged nuclear waste from the light water reactors would be a fast neutron reactor capable of using molten salt fuel consisting of all the fuel sources; spent uranium, natural uranium, depleted uranium, reactor-grade plutonium, weapons-grade plutonium, thorium, and even the fission products. These fast reactors would be continuously fed molten salt fuel during non-stop operation for up to 60 years without ever having to shut down the reactor core. A new reactor core replacement would allow continuation for another 60 or more years using the same fuel.

There are several variations of this ideal molten salt reactor in development in the US, Canada, England, France, Russia, China, and a few other smaller efforts. The future of nuclear power is transitioning from solid fuel water-cooled reactors to molten salt fueled reactors, scalable from the smaller low megawatts production to the largest gigawatts industrial power stations and industrial heat.

DEPLOYMENT OF A MOLTEN SALT FAST REACTOR FLEET: It will take many decades to build out a fleet of molten salt fast reactors capable of consuming all the unused spent nuclear fuel in storage. As well as the spent fuel still being produced in the older fleet of light water reactors, that will be productive for decades before decommissioning. Therefore, it is reasonable to consolidate the existing unused solid fuel to a storage site where a fuel conversion facility could also exist to provide the liquid fuel needed by the advanced fleet of molten salt reactors.

OVERCOME THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – SOCIOPOLITICAL FEAR: The storage technology of unused spent nuclear fuel is very safe and sound at each of the nuclear power plant sites on above-ground storage pads. The subsurface design proposed for HI-STORE CISF is already in use at three locations. The decommissioned SONGS subsurface storage silos were completed in 2020 and will sit there along with the other oceanfront property. Two other sites have also implemented the subsurface storage silos; the decommissioned Humboldt Bay Power Plant (PG&E) in 2013 and the still-active Callaway Plant in Missouri in 2015.

Even though the dry storage technology has flawlessly proven itself for the last ~40 years without a single death from radiation exposure (the measurement of safe), there is still this shackle of legacy fear towards radiation from the original usage for nuclear power as a weapon of war. This sociopolitical fear is unwarranted because it has never evolved with the current knowledge and understanding of nuclear science and technology. Nuclear energy is safe.

LICENSING THE HI-STORE CIS FACILITY IN NEW MEXICO: After many years of agonizing over the unused fuel from the commercial light water reactor fleet, what do we do? Do we deep store it or not, reprocess it or not, or recycle and burn it up as a final solution. Just as nuclear fuel storage and transport technology has evolved, so has the nuclear reactor technology. The Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor (MCSFR) design will consume all existing unused radioactive fuel sources in a single mixture of molten chloride salt fuel.

New Mexico already stores and transports radioactive materials. 1) depleted uranium at URENCO, 2) weapons-grade plutonium at Los Alamos, and 3) the recent transfer of down blended weapons-grade plutonium as a transuranic to the expanded WIPP facility. Adding a spent nuclear fuel storage management facility to our existing Nuclear industry is not going to change the risk we have already accepted and financially benefited. It’s time to license and construct the HI-STORE CISF in New Mexico.