Itemized Response to Demonizing SENM

Itemized response to Kim Fitzsimmons opinion piece in the ABQ Journal. The original article is displayed below:

1) SENM’s O&G, Nuclear, Farming and Tourism are all making billions of dollar for schools and social programs to benefit all residents of NM.

2) Holtec did not buy 32 acres of land in SENM. ELEA owns 1,000 acres in Lea County for the proposed HI-STORE CISF site.

3) The initial license request from Holtec with the NRC is for 40 years and 500 canisters with priority to decommissioned NPP across the US.

4) Future amendments to the license could see additional canisters up to 10,000.

5) The site is ~35 miles due east of Carlsbad and ~15 miles due northeast of WIPP.

6) In 2014, a minor leak with no health or environment issues caused the WIPP plant to reassess it’s safety culture and has resumed operation in 2017 after decontamination. WIPP also added another ventilation system so they can mine for salt and manage waste storage at the same time.

7) In 2006, Humboldt Bay, CA became the first plant to feature HI-STORM UMAX subterranean storage. Humboldt just experience a 5.6 earthquake Saturday night (6/22/19). No damage.

8) Southern California Edison’s San Onofre nuclear plant selected a seismically hardened version of the HI-STORM UMAX in 2014 after the State of California ordered the plant shuttered and decommissioned for political reasons. Holtec was not involved in the shutter of SONGS.

9) One of the fears by anti-fossil lobby groups is that frac’ing causes small earthquakes in the 2.5 seismic range and with no damage at the surface. Extraction of oil and gas does alter the pressures below ground level but so does extraction of water for farm irrigation.

10) O&G drilling uses produced water (recycled) for the frac’ing process. O&G uses ~1% of the total fresh water capacity of New Mexico. When oil prices reach $100, desalinated saline water is affordable.

11) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the transfer of the Oyster Creek Generating Station operating license from Exelon Generation to Holtec International, including the stored nuclear fuel. Holtec is also acquiring Indian Point, Palisades and Pilgrim nuclear units, including the independent spent fuel storage facility located at Big Rock Point in Iowa

Here is the original article from the Albuquerque Journal:

Guest Columns

A fracked ‘Nuclear Alley’ scarier than aliens
By Kim Fitzsimmons / Roswell Resident
Saturday, June 22nd, 2019 at 12:02am

Two powerful forces have landed in southeastern N.M. No, much worse than extraterrestrials. Nuclear waste disposal and drilling companies see us as prime real estate worth billions of dollars.

“Nuclear Alley” is known by the residents of Hobbs, Carlsbad, Eunice, Loving and Jal. In 2015, Holtec International bought 32 acres near Carlsbad for the storage of 173,000 British metric tons of nuclear waste for 20 years. A British “metric ton” adds 200 lbs more per ton than the standard U.S. measurement of 2,000 lbs. The Holtec site plans to store radioactive material 15 miles from the WIPP site. WIPP, the Waste Isolation Power Plant, is operating despite a 2014 radiation leak closing the plant for three years. Near Eunice, a Urenco uranium enrichment plant now operates a $4 billion waste site only 12 miles north of WIPP.

(According to Sanonofresafety.org, a website highly critical of Holtec operations in California), Holtec’s radiation storage canisters weigh up to 100,000 pounds with a thickness of 5/8 of an inch. Many countries store waste in thick-walled, bolted-lid metal casks 10 to 20 inches thick, the standard in most of the world, except the U.S. In 2012, the California San Onofre nuclear power plant closed due to faulty Holtec containers. Steam generators from 2011 showed premature wear on over 3,000 tubes, in 15,000 places. In 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded every Holtec canister downloaded into the storage holes was damaged due to inadequate clearance between the canister and the divider shell in the storage hole (vault). The NRC states that canister walls are already “worn.” This results in cracks. Once cracks start, they continue to grow through the wall.

ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum are among many companies that use “fracking” when drilling. Fracking increases the risk of earthquakes because highly pressurised wastewater and chemicals are blasted underground, creating unstable fissures. A U.S. Geographical Survey noted increased dramatic earthquake changes in 17 U.S. zones, including southeastern N.M., which are in “particular danger from an increased number of what it calls ‘induced’ quakes where wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may lubricate nearby faults, thereby making earthquakes more likely to occur.”

Our precious Pecos River flows near these drilling sites. Fracking of one well consumes 3-6 million gallons of water. In water-starved southeastern N.M. and the Permian Basin, over 103,000 wells now require 500 million gallons of water to drill. After fracking, millions more gallons of toxic wastewater is generated and has to be disposed of before our drinking water and land is destroyed.

Radioactive storage and big oil have been very generous with their money in Santa Fe, convincing elected leaders to turn our southeastern backyard into a toxic soup of fracked wells, wastewater and radioactive leaks. Visitors will avoid entering “Nuclear Alley,” realizing the dangers of exposure to this waste. Bye-bye to tourists who want to visit Carlsbad Caverns and other attractions here.

It may be too late. Holtec has cemented its foothold here by buying over 30 acres for radioactive storage. The very profitable oil/gas drilling companies are firmly entrenched in N.M. I would welcome extraterrestrials any day over them.

 

 

 

 

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Demonizing Southeast New Mexico

Everyone in New Mexico knows that the southeast corner of the state is the economic backbone of our state. Without the revenue generated by several primary industries located here, the state would absolutely be worst than a third world non-developing country. And yet, residents within the state have the gall to demonize it’s source of prosperity: O&G, nuclear and yes, the dairy farms. All three of those industrial industries bring in billions of dollars to the local economies, thousands of good paying jobs and billions in tax revenues to support our state educational and social support systems for all to benefit.

The Albuquerque Journal printed a recent opinion hit piece against Southeast New Mexico’s O&G and Nuclear Industry with serious allegations of misinformation. The author is definitely anti-industry and must think that the state can run on just the gas and hot air that comes out of our Santa Fe politicians, which is more then the 332,000 cows of our dairy industry. The opinion piece had so many errors, errors that were perpetuated from prior debunked and misguided opinion hit pieces. The internet has a cascade of unwarranted fear mongering misinformation about O&G frac’ing and Nuclear radiation.

The NMO&G Association spends millions of dollars on information marketing to educate the public about the industry as it is functioning here in New Mexico. One little unknown fact about hydraulic fracturing is: the process was first used by the oil and gas industry in 1947, the same year the aliens crashed landed north of Roswell. Scary! One of the fears by anti-fossil lobby groups is that it causes small earthquakes. Extraction of oil and gas does alter the pressures below ground level but so does extraction of water for farm irrigation.

The author was not able to discredit the innovative technology used by O&G and Nuclear. Instead, the author attempted to discredit the various oil companies and Holtec International. The Dairy Industry got a ‘pass’ in this hit piece. The author choose not to attack dairy or is not aware of the anti-industrial farm lobby and their attempts to discredit our dairy farms humane treatment practices.

Letter to Ben Shepperd (PBPA)

“The PBPA has not and will not take a position on the proposed nuclear waste storage sites, either at Carlsbad or at Andrews,” Ben Shepperd, PBPA president, told the Reporter-Telegram.

Dear Mr. Shepperd,

President
Permian Basin Petroleum Association

Re: Proposed Holtec High Level Nuclear Waste Storage Facility
Lea and Eddy Counties, New Mexico

As a knowledgeable person about the ILEA/Holtec HI-STORE CISF proposal and a resident in the City of Roswell, Chavez County, I would like to share my experience with Nuclear Science and Technology. My professional career was in International Information Technology (IT) at various capacities for 35 years. When I retired, I started to study other sciences and technology which included physics, chemistry and biology as a hobby. Over the last 10 years I have made many contacts around the world. I am telling you this so you don’t think I am some kind of flake. John Heaton, Carlsbad, can vouch for me.

I approached nuclear technology from the reactor perspective. I first learned how the various light water designs (LWR) worked. There is a ton of online information for anyone to learn about the history of nuclear reactor designs and why certain designs were chosen over others, not necessarily making all the right choices. Hindsight is always 20/20. As it turned out, the LWR ended up requiring a lot of extra safety systems and also left uranium fuel, about 95% unused, in the reactors. In that unused fuel there was a small percentage of new isotopes created in the fission process of the original uranium fuel base considered high-level radioactive material.

The solution to the unused uranium fuel is to use it in a reactor that is capable of consuming all the fuel so there is no leftover uranium but for a small amount of non-fuel radioactive isotopes that have other commercial uses. The newer reactor designs would have to solve all the perceived design flaws and weaknesses of the current generation fleet, approximately 450 reactors and growing worldwide. All of those reactors will contribute more unused uranium fuel, also referred to as stored (or spent) nuclear fuel, for decades.

For the last 75 years, the United States has been manufacturing nuclear fuel for it’s nuclear fleet of about 100 reactors, plus or minus, over this time period. In fact, there is now enough stored nuclear fuel to last centuries. Yes, thousands of years if, you count the metric tonnage of stored nuclear fuel at every nuclear power plant site, depleted uranium left over from making the nuclear fuel at enrichment plants (like URENCO) and the weapons grade plutonium that is stored at DOD/DOE sites around the country. I am referring only to the existing stored nuclear fuel in the United States. The world probably has another 10X amount they have to deal with.

What most people fail to see or at least accept is that the US already safely stores over 100,000 metric tons of nuclear fuel in 32 states that have active and inactive (shuttered or decommissioned) nuclear power plants. New Mexico does not have a commercial nuclear power plant but does have 4.2 metric tons of store nuclear fuel from the Labs. DOE has ownership of about 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium stored at enrichment plants in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. URENCO in NM does have an upper limit of 14 tons. This depleted uranium is also nuclear fuel for future fast spectrum reactors that are in development today.

It is the innovative future technology that most people ignore when discussing stored nuclear fuel in New Mexico. The O&G Industry, which has stored fossil fuels still in the ground, extracts it through frac’ing technology, as needed, and only stores a limited amount above ground. The Nuclear Industry has already extracted all the uranium they would need for centuries. There is no need to manufacture more nuclear fuel from uranium mining extraction until most of the existing stored above ground nuclear fuel is used up. This excess stored nuclear fuel was not created by design but was generated by an accepted flaw in the original nuclear reactors that only consumed 5% of the fuel load in the reactor.

For the last several years, I have been promoting the concept of creating nuclear fuel depots around the country. These depots would not only consolidate and store the excess nuclear fuel, they would also facilitate the conversion of the solid uranium fuel pellets into a liquid form secured in molten chloride or fluoride salts as fuel for the next generation of nuclear reactors – molten salt reactors (MSR). These reactors are designed to consume 99.9% as liquid nuclear fuel and provide other commercial products use in the medical fields and elsewhere. The remaining 0.1% of unusable material can and should be permanently stored in WIPP as waste.

Based on my years of research about nuclear material management, I am convince that the US should not permanently store any nuclear fuels in deep repositories like Yucca Mountain or even WIPP if it were allowed. Stored nuclear fuel needs to be easily accessible so that it can be retrieved at a later time for use as liquid fuel for the advanced molten chloride salt fast reactors. These reactors will eventually eliminate the existing stored nuclear fuel as well as the need for long term storage. The nuclear fuel depot will still be required to manufacture liquid fuel from natural uranium that will be mined again in the future. There will be no need for uranium enrichment plants like URENCO.

How does the HI-STORE CISF benefit New Mexico? It is, in effect, the first phase of a nuclear fuel depot with the storage of existing unused nuclear fuel. The second phase of the depot would develop the facility to retrieve the stored nuclear fuel and convert the solid unused fuel pellets into molten salt liquid fuel. That operation could easily be sited at the same location as HI-STORE CISF. There would be revenue generated from storing the nuclear fuel and also from reselling it to the new nuclear fleet of MSRs that will be located all over the United States and other countries.

I wrote this letter so that you could see the bigger picture of nuclear energy as I see it. As you stated, PBPA is in support of all types of energy production and is not opposed to the utilization of nuclear energy by our nation. The other vision I have for nuclear energy is the investment that O&G should be making in the development of advanced nuclear reactors for their long term energy portfolio.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my vision.

Respectfully,

Martin Kral
Retired
Roswell, New Mexico

Governor’s poor energy decisions:

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was poorly advised to sign into law the Clean Energy Transition Act (CETA) of 2019. This legislation mandates that our electric utilities completely decarbonize power generation by 2045-2050. In order to achieve that, all coal and natural gas fueled electricity generation has to be shut down and clean energy to replace it. The legislation specifies clean energy as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal. This will make the New Mexico O&G Industry an export business only.

The Governor is about to make the next huge energy transition mistake based on more bad advise and misinformation. Apparently the Governor has received push back on the HI-STORE CISF project in Carlsbad from the O&G industry, the industry that she also wants to slow down with her CETA decarbonization legislation. She has decided to not allow stored nuclear fuel to be sited in New Mexico on an interim or permanent basis. The reason I know she is misinformed is because she keeps referring to the stored nuclear fuel as waste when it is the uranium base for advanced liquid fuel nuclear reactors.

Oil and gas is a billion dollar industry, dairy farming is a billion dollar industry, cattle raising is a billion dollar industry, tourism is a billion dollar industry and stored nuclear fuel is a billion dollar industry. Stored nuclear fuel industry is the only one of that short list that does not have limited growth potential based on geographical limitation within the boundaries of our state. It also does not have the environmental pollution issues of methane gas releases from the oil fields, diary farms, cattle ranges and worst of all, the human impact of tourism.

However, those are all trivial problems that can all be worked out. What is not trivial is the ‘fear factor’ that is instilled in so many people without warrant, whether it is fear of nuclear radiation, O&G CO2 and particulate pollution, dairy cow flatus, GMO food sources, or a zika and ebola spillover coming across our southern border. What the Governor needs right now is a crash course on how to manage fear and learn how to be more pragmatic in her decision process.

Energy mandates and subsidies don’t work:

New Mexico’s recent Clean Energy Transition Act (CETA) to industrialize renewable wind and solar requirements at 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 defies the law of physics. It also defies the logic of common sense mostly because the US is a democracy where the people have the final decision. Whenever administrations change from one party to the other, so do the energy policies.

During the 1970’s the oil embargo created high prices of oil. The Government provided incentives in million dollar grants to develop alternatives to generate electricity. In the following few years there were a number of advances in wind, solar and biofuel technology. When the embargo ended, so did the subsidies for alternative energy. Fossil fuels resumed their roles again.

When global warming became an environmental issue at the turn of the century, Al Core popularized it with the video ‘The Inconvenient Truth’. Countries like Germany and even US states like California reacted with defined mandates against CO2 and provided subsidies to accelerate the resurgence of renewable energy like; wind, solar and biomass.

Even Gov Richardson’s administration got into the act with the “Renewable Policy Standards” (RPSs) initially adopted in 2004 where renewable sources make up 10 percent of the investor-owned electric utilities sales by 2011, 15% by 2015 and 20% by 2020. The act was amended in 2007 by Gov Richardson himself because those percentages could not be met. The same thing is going to happen with the Clean Energy Transition percentages over the next 30 years.

The history and experience with renewable energy in New Mexico the last 20 years defies any probability that New Mexico will achieve 100% renewable wind and solar by 2050. Even the 50% mandate by 2030 is not going to happen without a lot of supplemental energy from natural gas backup (about 60%) or from Palo Verde (PV) Nuclear Power Plant in Arizona. Higher prices for renewable electricity are guaranteed because of unreliability and energy dilution requiring more expensive land, transmission lines and mining raw materials.

After the election of 2022, we may very well have a different Governor and the state’s mandated energy policies will change again. Thank God we still have O&G, but for how long?

Billion dollar decommissioning industry:

For those that don’t track nuclear energy development like I do, you might be getting mixed signals about the future of nuclear power plants (NPP) in the United States. The US hasn’t been building reactors for the last 40 years and only has two under construction at an existing NPP site. Several US utility companies are decommissioning older NPP’s because of overhead cost created by cheaper electricity generation with Natural Gas.

There is a multi-billion dollar NPP decommissioning industry being developed by Holtec International Decommissioning Division. When a utility company can not justify operating loses from their NPP, they have to make a decision to protect their share holders and employee investments.

One of those ways is to sell off assets that are losing money and replace it with a more profitable energy source. Natural gas has become that cheaper energy source. Another option is to ask state governments for subsidies to help cover the cost of operation. New York State has decided not to save their perfectly good NPP’s.

Holtec has reached an agreement with the Entergy Company to acquire Indian Point Energy Center (a NPP) after the last of the three reactors shuts down in 2021. The sale includes the transfer of the licenses, spent fuel, decommissioning liabilities, and Nuclear Decommissioning Trusts (NDT) for the three units. There are billions of dollar in those trust funds paid by customers over the decades that will cover the cost of the NPP decommissioning and the storage of unused nuclear fuel rods.

In addition to Indian Point NY, Holtec has already acquired and started closure on two other request for license transfer; the ongoing Oyster Creek (NJ) and Pilgrim (MA) License Transfer Applications (LTAs), which are moving smoothly through the NRC agency, with anticipated approvals. The infamous Three Mile Island plant is also in the decommissioning queue. Why would Holtec invest in decommissioning if there is no repository to store the waste?

All the spent nuclear fuel rods have to be removed and stored at an interim storage facility. Holtec International is the company that has proposed the HI-STORE CISF site in partnership with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) for the interim storage of unused nuclear fuel rods here in New Mexico near WIPP.

A ‘new wave’ of nuclear energy:

The primary reason for the current nuclear renaissance at this time is because of the ‘fear of climate change’. It is so ironic that the ‘fear of nuclear’ was the primary reason for continued use of fossil fuels that eventually caused our alleged climate concerns. The shift to renewable wind and solar to address climate change will eventually have an unintended ‘favorable’ consequence for more nuclear energy.

Currently the US produces the most nuclear reactor net capacity of clean commercial electrical power (30%) worldwide with France a distance second. Based on the documented 55 Gen3+ nuclear reactors currently under construction around the world, the United States clean nuclear electricitical capacity will drop all the way down to 8th place on the list of countries that will out produce us. Of course, China will lead the world in clean nuclear energy capacity.

After a forty year absence from building nuclear reactors in the US, it is still the leader in designing nuclear reactors for the future. The next generation, referred to as Gen4, are walk away safe small modular reactors (SMR) still based on solid fuel rods like the existing nuclear fleet except they are self contained factory built vessels that won’t melt down. Another Gen4 reactor design is the use of liquid fuel instead of solid fuel rods.

The US is now on a fast track with NuScale’s first SMR nuclear power facility (with 12 small reactors) scheduled for 2026. The plant will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power System, built at Idaho National Labs and could generate enough power for about 540,000 homes. Terrestrial Energy is also on a fast track with Canada’s first Integrate Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant being sited at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories near Montreal.

This ‘new-wave’ of nuclear power has already pushed into the GEN5 development cycle with Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactors (MCSFR), scheduled for the 2030’s. These MCSFR power plants will use existing spent and depleted uranium fuels in liquid form and will completely eliminate stored solid fuel rods and the long term need for the proposed interim storage facility known as HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad, NM.