Closing San Juan Power Station:

After reading the AP article in Friday’s 11/30/2019 RDR about the closing of San Juan Power Station, the numbers referenced did not add up for me. The plant was recently upgraded with scrubbers that made the San Juan coal fired power plant the cleanest in the US. That was paid for by the rate payers of the electricity generated for the western half of New Mexico, eastern part of Arizona and the southern part of Utah. For political reasons, the Governor’s new energy transition act (ETA) signed by her in 2019 required the plant to close before the arbitrary 2040 zero emission schedule.

The first number that doesn’t add up is the rush to close the plant by 2022 when there is still 20 years of cheap electricity that could still come from the plant before the 2040 ETA deadline. The cost to upgrade with carbon capture as stated was ~$5 billion dollars at the low end of the modeling scale or to replace the electricity with wind and solar and natural gas backup for ~$5.4 billion dollars, also at the low end of the same modeling projections. Both cost could be avoided or deferred and save the rate payers and the tax payers (subsidy cost to the State) to close San Juan and replace with renewables.

The second number that is missing in the political equation is the cost to the rate payer and tax payers if the plant is not shut down in the next 20 years. Basically, there would be a saving of ~$10 billion dollars by not closing down the San Juan Power Station and continue to provide cheap electricity to three states and continued jobs for the local population for at least another 20 years.

In the mean time, prepare your budgets to allow for substantial rate increases over the next 20 years and beyond when the utilities have to replace the alternative renewable wind and solar hardware. My vote is to leave the San Juan Power Station as is for the next 20 years and invest in more cost effective and innovative power sources like carbon capture methane free natural gas and clean nuclear to meet the zero emission requirement of the ETA 2040 schedule.

Letter to Gov. 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 the project starting with – 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 am able to support nuclear in New Mexico from a very pragmatic perspective.

The only way to overcome fear is through knowledge. The primary reason for fear is the unknown and all the “what if’s” our conscience develops from the past. 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 safe use of nuclear from the “Atoms for Peace” program to the present. Our nuclear fleet of energy reactors are the safest in the world, if you can actually 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 serious 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? From the time the unused nuclear fuel is placed in a safe canister-cask combination, it has to stay shielded for 300 years while the contents decays to an inert matter state. One of the worst disinformation myths is that the store nuclear fuel is dangerous for 10,000 years or more based on the half-life of only one of the elements: plutonium.

In reality, there is technology that can completely eliminate all unused uranium, plutonium and other fission products that make up stored nuclear fuel, all within 100 years, and never create any more unused fuel. 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. These technologies are being developed in parallel with all the political indecision made over the continued development of Yucca Mountain deep repository.

First and foremost, unused (spent) nuclear fuel from today’s fleet of light water reactors should never be buried in deep underground repositories like Yucca Mt. or any bore hole strategy. The stored nuclear fuel needs to be easily accessible so that it can be retrieved for conversion to a salt base liquid fuel used in advanced molten chloride (fast) or fluoride (thermo) salt reactors being developed around the world by 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 really is and it’s fuel management. Nuclear is safe technology and New Mexico should continue to participate in the future energy source of the world. Thank you.

What about the nuclear waste? Op-ed to the Albuquerque Journal

Yes, what about it? There are two ways to look at the word “nuclear”. One is with fear and the other is with knowledge. Those who fear nuclear do so from a complete misunderstanding of the effects of radiation cause by a lack of education. To understand radiation, you first have to accept the fact that there is no life on earth without some radiation. Madame Currie knew this over 100 years ago when she and her husband Pierre studied the effects of radioactivity. They determined that there was a threshold of radiation that was actually safe and good for humanity.

When someone asks about the nuclear waste from a nuclear power plant, they are referring to the unused (also referred to as spent) uranium and new fission products (isotopes) created from the nuclear fission reaction inside a reactor core. More specifically they are referring to the existing fleet of light water reactors (LWR). Most commercial reactors are based on LWR designs and they all produce spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that needs to be shielded and stored in a safe place. There is a 300 year radioactive decay process after SNF is removed from the core of the reactor.

The alleged nuclear “waste” is actually nuclear fuel for future fleets of advanced reactors. The nuclear power industry has been safely storing this unused fuel on power plant sites in deep water pools for decades. When the hot fuel cools off through decay, it is placed in safe canister-cask configurations for longer interim storage. Some of the earlier power plants are now being decommissioned prematurely for political reasons. Nuclear reactors are designed and built to last 100 years with an arbitrary 40 year license and 20 year extensions. Many nuclear power plants are within the 40-60 year life cycle duration.

With nuclear power plant decommissioning comes the need to relocate the on-site interim stored nuclear fuel to a consolidated location for longer interim storage. It is needed fuel for advanced molten chloride salt fast reactor technology (MCSFR). These reactors are designed to completely consume the stored nuclear fuel. As a result of this innovative ‘fast’ reactor technology, there no is need for long term deep repository disposition. The legacy of Yucca Mountain is forever in the past and should not be resurrected and funded by the Federal Government.

Holtec’s HI-STORE CISF and Orano’s WCS CISF are two proposed consolidated longer term interim storage locations, HI-STORE CISF in southeast New Mexico and WCS CISF in West Texas. Both sites will most likely meet all the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requirements for safe storage of SNF. Safe dry stored nuclear fuel has been around for decades and never had a serious mishap to cause health or environmental concerns. However, there is still the fear by many of the perceived consequences of a storage or transport accident. I have to say perceived because the World Health Organization already knows what the results of a nuclear accident would be. (Little to no acute radiation consequences based on the three major accidents in the last 40 years.)

I have been tracking the nuclear industry for the last 10 years, including the technical and political history of reactors, nuclear fuel storage management and innovative solutions for the next generation of reactor technology. I am convinced that the biggest hurtle ahead is the political will and the public acceptance that nuclear energy is the future and we should all learn and understand what that means for humanity.

It is my sincere recommendation that New Mexico should participate and be a leader in the future of nuclear energy. That would start with the storage of future nuclear fuel by supporting the $3 billion capital investment of the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project in southeast New Mexico and the $24 million steady annual revenue stream for the New Mexico state budget. The alternative is that Texas takes it all.

Second Meeting with Rep. Xochitl Torres Small and follow-up letter

Date: November 11th, 2019
Honorable Xochitl Torres Small
U.S. Congresswoman
Representing the 2nd District of New Mexico

Thank you for conducting your Congress on the Corner program. It has afforded me the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with you that allow me to express my concerns and opportunities for the State of New Mexico. It is my belief that everyone should be actively involved in their community one way or another. My involvement is the continued development of progressive opportunities for new industries and expanded business employment options for the people of New Mexico, especially southeast New Mexico.

Sunday, 11/10/2019, you asked me two questions about my vision (presentation) of the complete beginning to end nuclear fuel cycle for the nuclear energy industries. Those questions were:

1) What happens to the gases and solids after the liquids are separated out of the molten salt fuel conversion process?

Answer: The spent nuclear fuel removed from a LWR is considered a Type B radioactive material by the NRC and has to be shielded from the general public. A conversion from the solid fuel rods to a new liquid fuel base does not change that classification. The extracted gases (krypton, etc.) and the extracted solids (zirconium, etc) are still considered Type B and have to be shielded for 100 years. The extracted liquid is a mix of uranium and plutonium in a sludge like molten chloride carrier salt and solidified into transport ingots to be transported to the new nuclear power plants as NRC Type B classified material. That is the new fuel for the next generation of molten salt reactors (MSR) which there are many in development around the world. This is a recycle and reuse procedure and NOT a reprocess.

2) Is there one entity that would manage the process of the entire nuclear fuel cycle?

Answer: The NRC is responsible to regulated all ‘things’ nuclear. While uranium mining is an industry by itself, it is regulated by the NRC. The uranium enrichment process is another independent industry and is also regulated by the NRC. The nuclear fuel and assembly process is still another industry and again regulated by the NRC. The many utility companies that have nuclear power plants are regulated by the NRC. All spent nuclear fuel, regardless of where or how it is stored is regulated by the NRC. All new nuclear reactor development (and there are many) is regulated by the NRC.

I have since had several conversations with those that know and understand the complete nuclear fuel cycle down to the smallest isotopes have suggested that I not continued to interfere with the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project with my personal vision of how New Mexico could became the center of all nuclear fuel for the next generations for nuclear power reactors.

In order to appreciate the Holtec HI-STORE CISF solution, I personally thought it would be better understood if people knew there was a simple disposition of the ‘alleged waste’ that is being proposed for storage in New Mexico. There is no need for Yucca Mountain or any other deep repository for stored nuclear fuel because it can be safely stored in dry cask for 300 years, at which time the material is stable and non-threatening to the general public. If the stored nuclear fuel is converted to liquid and used in molten salt reactors, the storage duration would be reduced to 100 years. The Holtec HI-STORE CISF is a safe and much less expensive solution to manage the store nuclear fuel from the first generations of existing nuclear power plant.

While my vision completely eliminates unused nuclear fuel with a fleet of commercial molten chloride salt fast reactors and position New Mexico at the forefront of the next generation of nuclear energy, it has to be done through another program for another time. For now, it is important to focus on the immediate need for consolidated interim storage here in New Mexico.

If New Mexico decides to oppose the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project, then all the potential revenue and jobs will go to WCS/Orano CISF proposal in Andrews, Texas. It is my understanding that both projects already have NRC technical acceptance and both are waiting to get the general public approval to license.

I would really hate to see $3 billion in capital investment and $24 million in annual revenue sharing for the State of New Mexico go elsewhere, especially Texas. I just hope you take enough time to fully understand the value of this project to your district and the State of New Mexico.

Go Xochitl Torres Small 2020 and HI-STORE 2020

Martin Kral
Roswell NM
575-317-0610 (text or phone)

Another letter to Rep. Xoch

Fifteen minutes with Rep. Xochitl Torres Small:

Wednesday, 8/28/2019, I planted the seed into the mind of Rep. Xochitl Torres Small that molten chloride salt fast reactors were the final solution to the interim and retrievable store nuclear fuel at Holtec HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed here in New Mexico.

The Honorable Rep. Xochitl Torres Small was attentive to every word I was saying. I told her I was not there for any political reason and that I didn’t need anything from her accept to listen to me. And she did, especially when I told her that the transportation and storage of unused nuclear fuel rods was technically safe and the only issue with radiation were based on legacy fear left over from the cold war era.

I met with Rep. Small (and she is small) in a very out of the way watering hole, literally called the Hydration Station, up in Portales, NM east of the University. Their coconut ice tea is the talk of the town so yes, that is what I had. Fifteen minutes is not very much time so I had to choose my words carefully.

Rep. Small is also the only politico in NM that has not openly opposed the HI-STORE CISF project. She brought that up in our conversation with dignity so I have to trust that she is open minded about it for now. She also told me that it is up to the NRC and I assume that she will probably take their position on it. This is all speculation and my opinion based on all the other conversations I have had with politicos in general. Trust, but verify.

The NRC is in the process of final preparation for the next round of the EIS – Environmental Impact Study. The proposed initial operating period for the HI-STORE CIS Facility is 40 years with possible license extensions of 80 years for an extended operating lifetime of 120 years. I explained to Rep. Small this was enough time because the nuclear fuel would be mostly benign by then. The nuclear fuel would be terminus at HI-STORE CISF until it was needed as fuel for advanced molten chloride salt reactors.

Will ETA be another boondoggle?

After the Rail Runner, Film Credits, Super Computer, Spaceport America, the ART and the election of Michelle Lujan Grisham, one has to wonder how much more the people of this state can take? The first big mistake that Gov. Lujan Grisham has already made was signing the Energy Transition Act (ETA) into law. The ETA is destine to become the next ‘BIG’ New Mexico boondoggle.

Rail Runner: Remember Gov. Richardson? Big Bad Bill (back in the day) sold the state a pig in a poke and now we’re stuck with it. This transit system is also considered the Great New Mexico Train Robbery. The bigger ‘take away’ is the rail line still costs the state about $15,000 a year per daily commuter, not counting capital cost for the $55 million dollars to install positive train control, as required by federal law. The system has been a loser from day one. Time to switch to NG buses.

Film Industry: Another Bill Richardson ‘success’ story that was piggy-backed off Gov. Gary Johnson’s original film program. NM Film Industry in 2018 has been very busy but the State is still coming out on the short end of the revenue stream by hundreds of millions. In the 2019 session the Legislature agreed to appropriate (up to) $250 million to pay off some of that “debt.” while the subsidy program continues to cost the tax payer an estimated $150 million annually. Time to switch the lights off.

Spaceport America: Just when you thought Gov. Bill Richardson couldn’t top his other boondoggles, along comes “Spaceport America” as New Mexico’s worst example of the sunk-cost fallacy. Gov. Bill Richardson once claimed that Spaceport America would make southern New Mexico “a pioneer in the private space industry.” Ten years later, that still hasn’t happened after the initial $250 million subsidy and the $12 million in annual expenses. Time for a lift off or a send off.

Energy Transition Act: Here is the latest potential boondoggle that is trying to get off the ground. Actually, it will completely change the landscape of our enchanted lands of New Mexico. What is known for sure is that the ETA won’t have any detectable effect on climate change. This means that politicians and other ETA advocates are asking — more accurately, forcing — New Mexicans to squander their money on something that would have almost next to zero benefits to the state. Time to go with nuclear energy.

Governor Lujan Grisham: Michelle was groomed by Gov. Bill Richardson. As our new Governor with a billion dollars in reserve from the booming oil industry, she has managed to increase the 2019 state budget by that one billion leaving the state with a balanced budget (state law) and no reserve. She is depending on another boom year from O&G to sustain her shopping spree. The ETA is her pet project and wants to make it the ‘hallmark’ of her administration. Time to start thinking about a replacement.

Each of the boondoggles listed above have defined boundaries (sunsets) where if the cost becomes to great for the state to handle, they could be terminated. One of the cruelest manifestations of illogical thinking is the sunk-cost fallacy and unfortunately, this state is guilty of placing that burden on the good people of New Mexico.

Source: Rio Grande Foundation.

Honorable Xochitl Torres Small letter

Date: August 7th, 2019
Honorable Xochitl Torres Small
U.S. Congresswoman
Representing the 2nd District of New Mexico

Hello! My name if Martin and I am a 71 year old retired Computer Technology Consultant, which is a short way of saying I dabbled in every aspect of the computer industry. For my retirement hobby I have continued to dabble, but in Nuclear Science and Technology for the last ten years. I have studied the history, the present and the future of nuclear reactor designs and nuclear fuel manufacturing and storage management. It is this industrial nuclear topic that I would like to have a brief visit with you to discuss three of my perspectives for New Mexico and the second district.

URENCO, a uranium enrichment process facility in Eunice NM, typically enriches uranium nuclear fuel up to 5% (U-235), which is sufficient to sustain a continuous fission reaction in our current nuclear power plants. URENCO has applied for a modification to their NCR license to increase the enrichment percentage to 20% to be used in the new advanced small modular reactor technology which include NuScale and the UAMPS project in Idaho (now called the Carbon-Free Power Project).

I support this increased uranium enrichment process at URENCO to provide fuel for the future of advanced small modular reactor power plants in the US.

HI-STORE CISF, a consolidated interim storage facility for unused (spent) nuclear fuel rods. Holtec International and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) have teamed up to develop a facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs, just north of WIPP. Stored nuclear fuel (SNF) from around the US will be store here in sub-surface cask for at most 300 years as the radioactive material decays to a benign non-threatening solid uranium mineral. The stored nuclear fuel will eventually be used up in future advanced molten chloride salt fast reactors to produce industrial heat for electricity, desalination, hydrogen fuel and on-demand medical isotopes, among many other products.

I support a safe $3 billion capital expenditure project where New Mexico will receive 30% of the annual gross revenue from this multi-billion dollar new business.

WIPP, waste isolation pilot plant, a Department of Energy waste management facility for transuranic radioactive materials from DOE nuclear manufacturing installations, mostly the National Labs, from around the country. For the last twenty years, WIPP trucks have hauled 12,500 payloads of hazardous cargo (transuranic waste) with drivers traveling over 14.9 million miles. There have been no leaks of radioactive material, personal injuries or environmental issues.

The primary reason for this overall safety culture is with the high-quality drivers and carrier compliance to the rigid regulations of the NRC and the US DOT. WIPP is expected to receive up to 37,000 shipments from federal (DOE) storage facilities over the next ~30 years.

I support the expansion of the DOE WIPP license to also store non-fuel and non-product very low inventory of high level radioactive waste from the commercial market place. This requires several state and federal laws to by modified.

New Mexico could become the center of the advanced nuclear fuel industry with URENCO, HI-STORE, WIPP and many secondary businesses like medical isotope development and other unique isotope research projects with extractions from URENCO and HI-STORE nuclear fuel storage.

The US nuclear industry is starting to experience another growth cycle with several financial support bills in Congress for the next generation of nuclear power plants. URENCO will expand its product line to include 20% fuel enrichment for the advanced small modular reactors, scheduled for the mid 2020’s. A new advance liquid fuel conversion facility next to HI-STORE CISF will be needed to convert stored nuclear solid fuel rods to liquid fuel for advanced molten chloride salt reactors scheduled for the 2030 timeline.

I would really like to have just a few minutes of your time to basically introduce you to these opportunities and answer any questions or concerns you may have. I am not financially invested in any of the industries mentioned and can offer a very pragmatic global perspective of each. My personal view sees all these businesses inter-related.

Thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts about the future of energy in New Mexico, the United States and the rest of the world.

Mr. Martin Kral
Roswell, NM
575-317-0610 (text or phone)