Author Archives: Martin Kral

About Martin Kral

Retired, just having fun writing about energy.

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)

OMG, these things are worth billions

All the Democrat (D) government politicians in Santa Fe NM have written letters and op-ed’s to oppose the Holtec HI-STORE CISF (consolidated interim storage facility) project here in Southeast New Mexico for various reason. However, there is one factor that has been ignored and that is what happens if it not built in New Mexico. Well, it will probably be built in Andrews County, Texas (R) just across the state line from URENCO Enrichment Plant minutes outside of Eunice, NM.

The first thing you have to ask is ‘why’ would we allow a multi-billion dollar business that wants to locate in NM be forced to go to another location like West Texas. All the risk will still apply to NM without any of the monetary benefits. Orano USA is the US arm of the Areva International Group headquartered in Paris, France. Not only would we be forcing a US company, Holtec, out of NM, we would also be letting a foreign company to financially manage the WCS/Orano TX (waste control specialist) site and all the stored nuclear fuel rods. This stuff was made in America and should be managed by an American company.

Both groups, Holtec/ELEA (NM-D) and WCS/Orano (TX-R), are in the process of getting an initial 40 year NRC license to stage solid stored nuclear fuel rods (also contains some blended high level radioactive isotopes) at these sites on an interim bases that could last up to 300 years (times billions of dollars per year). That is when the radioactive isotopes would have decayed to a benign non-threating solid uranium mineral.

Holtec and Orano are also in the nuclear power plant decommissioning business as well and both need an interim location for the stored nuclear fuel rods to complete the decommissioning and decontamination process.

As I see it, NM has three choices to address the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project. 1) do nothing and let Texas take the business and revenue, 2) build the HI-STORE CISF to handle all the US unused stored nuclear fuel rods or, 3) work with Texas and share the responsibility and revenue of managing the US unused stored nuclear fuel rods. For me personally, #1 is not an option.


Beyond nuclear is a fallacy:

The year is 2050 and New Mexico is supposed to be completely decarbonized according to the 2019 law to implement the Clean Energy Transition Act (CETA) on the electrical grid. Back in 2019, Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham was absolutely convinced that New Mexico could lead the charge to remove O&G emissions from our air and water. I can confidently predict that this scenario will never come to reality after spending billions of dollar on the least dense energy source of those available to generate electricity.

This is worth repeating from my last letter: resource-intensive and land-intensive renewable solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy.

Stored uranium and natural gas are the two highest energy dense sources of fuel while wind and solar are the least dense energy source. In fact, W/S are not even fuels according to the science of physics. A battery is a form of stored energy and can be considered a fuel source. Can you just imagine the physics of batteries being even more resource-intensive and land-intensive then wind and solar capture hardware.

To even think the industrial world could prosper, yet survive, on wind and solar has already been proven to require either natural gas or nuclear for back-end load base electricity to provide 24×7 usage. Then there is the ever expanding overhead on the electrical grid with all it’s towers and land easements across the fruited plains, with recent demands to bury them (NIMBY). And yet, there is a contingent of people around the world and especially here in New Mexico that believe there will be a future society some day without fission and fossil energy sources. That is an illusion just like the Green New Deal, the model for NM’s Clean Energy Transition law.

Speaking of beyond nuclear, there is an activist group by that name using the court system to hinder the decommissioning of shuttered nuclear power plants and the relocation of the stored nuclear fuel. They are suing every public agency and private business trying to solve the issue of the alleged nuclear waste myths, by locking horns with HI-STORE CISF in court.

Beyond Wind and Solar – 2050:

I can’t believe anyone actually thinks New Mexico can decarbonize by 2050. That is exactly what the state is trying to do with their Clean Energy Transition Act (CETA) which plans to replace fossil fuels for generating electricity with non-fuel intermittent based wind and solar energy assisted by natural gas (oops, that’s stored carbon).

New Mexico regulators are just now charting the CETA requirements into two parallel paths, one to determine how to finance and implement the decommissioning of the coal fire power plants up near the Four Corners and the second path to determine how to replace the lost electricity from those closures.

PNM is just now conducting presentations up in Farmington of how the customers on the west side of the state are going to save money under the CETA guidelines. Xcel is building hundreds of wind turbines on the east side of the state with the promise to lower customer electricity cost at the same time asking the state for a rate increase to finance building the wind farm per the CETA requirements.

Let me start this off with an example of power density. “no amount of marketing could change the poor physics of resource-intensive and land-intensive renewables. Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy.” – Michael Shellenberger, Environmental Progress. What that is truly saying is that the enchanted lands of New Mexico will become the industrial landscape of New Mexico.

So the real question becomes, why are we investing multibillion-dollars in an energy source that only has a 30 year life span at best before we have to replace it in 2050? CETA has no provision for replacement cost (more tax payer subsidies) or a clean up fund (rate payer capital bonds) for decommissioning and storage of the toxic materials.

If you thought the ‘unused’ rusting farm equipment laying all over the country side is an eye sore, wait until to see the rusting wind turbines and solar panels spewed all over the place. At least the farmers can hide their waste.

Radioactive Transport by the Numbers

For the last twenty year, WIPP trucks have hauled 12,500 payloads of hazardous cargo (transuranic waste) with drivers traveling over 14.9 million miles and there have been no leaks of radioactive material, personal injuries or environmental issues. The primary reason for this is the overall safety culture 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 for the next 30 years.

The US nuclear energy industry has safely transported used fuel without any harmful release of radioactivity, injuries or environmental damage 100% of the time. According to the NRC, more than 1,300 spent fuel shipments have been completed safely in the United States over the past 35 years. Most of the used fuel was shipped by rail. The US Navy has completed nearly 850 shipments of used fuel from naval propulsion reactors, covering 1.6 million transportation miles.

In fact, after 20,000 shipments total of used fuel by the worldwide nuclear industry since 1970, there have been no leaks of radioactive material or personal injuries. In addition, more than 250 transportation cask of used nuclear fuel from foreign research reactors have been transported to and within the United States between 1990 and 2012.

Containers for nuclear fuel shipments are fabricated with multiple layers of steel, lead, concrete and other materials to safely confine and shield radiation associated with the used fuel from external entities. Fully loaded containers weigh between 25 tons and 40 tons for truck transport and between 75 tons and 125 tons for rail shipments. Typically, for every ton of used fuel, a container has about 4 tons of protective confinement and shielding.

In the United States, more than 80,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel are stored at 73 nuclear reactor sites and four DOE facilities in 35 states. This amount increases by about 2,000 metric tons each year. More than 2,700 used fuel storage containers are currently in service at these reactor sites. Time to relocate them to New Mexico – HI-STORE CISF.