Author Archives: Martin Kral

About Martin Kral

Retired, just having fun writing about energy.

Wind and solar farms are only an interim solution:

We have two candidates for Governor, one is full of wind and the other is full of gas. The problem with term limits for Governor (or President) is that the long term solutions for any issue changes very 4 years. The last 8 years, O&G was the energy focus in New Mexico. The next 8 year may see wind and solar as the energy focus for New Mexico. Michelle Lujan-Grisham wants to increase the capacity of wind and solar to 50% of New Mexico’s electricity needs by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Why? To prevent climate change? Renewables are not making a dent on carbon emissions.

But what we can do is stop polluting the planet now and into the future. The only practical method of greatly reducing CO2 emissions from electricity production is replacing fossil fuel with nuclear fuel. Prominent believers in a future global warming catastrophe are supporting nuclear electricity, including James Hansen, Michael Shellenberger, and Stewart Brand. All these popular environmentalist were anti-nuclear at one time in their past. What is needed is more political support.

Wind and Solar farms are only an interim solution to having clean renewable electricity generation. With their intermittent capacity they are required to have backup energy generation and currently that is natural gas, which is not a clean fuel. The only other solution would be to have battery backup which is not available today and won’t be for another 10 years. Development of efficient batteries is possible, but at great expense. For me, wind and solar will be useless in 20 years and will become our new ‘waste’ issue to cleanup.

Advanced nuclear power plants will solve many current electricity generating issues with stored fossil fuels and captured energy. A thousand Kilowatt per hour nuclear plant can displace 10 million solar panels or 1800 wind turbines. Stored nuclear fuel is also a million times more dense than any fossil fuel (Ref: American Nuclear Society). Advance nuclear will not be our ‘waste’ problem in the future.

Martin Kral
Roswell Resident

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Is it immoral or is it good business?

This next letter made it into the Carlsbad Current-Argus local newspaper already. It was also submitted to the Roswell Daily News.

I could be referring to the O&G industries or I could be referring to the Wind and Solar energy industries or I could be referring to the industrial cattle and dairy industries. Why do these industries get a free moral pass when you look at the environmental and heath issues they cause. The simple answer is that most people really don’t think about it. We go on with our daily lives drinking ice tea through our plastic straws. But isn’t it interesting that everyone takes notice when a few ‘moral’ people decide eradication of the plastic straw is the new agenda.

But I diverged, we all know that I am referring to the nuclear energy industry. After reading through all of the comments submitted to the NRC and the Holtec International HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Project, only a few of the comments dealt directly with the science involved. Some valid points where made and they should definitely be addressed. The majority, probably more than 90%, were comments base on the legacy of misinformation about nuclear radiation, historical government commitments and their own personal moral reactions.

Is the Holtec Project immoral or is it good business? For me , it is both. One thing immoral about spent nuclear fuel (SNF) is that is was created in the first place when that wasn’t technically necessary. The moral thing to do now is stop producing SNF and eliminate it from storage. The solution to both of those issues is found in advance reactor technology that Bill Gates’s company, Terrapower will provide. There are several companies developing similar technology to eliminate waste, proliferation and melt downs while providing clean efficient industrial heat and electricity. Idaho National Labs with Northwest Power and Oak Ridge National Labs with Southern Power are both sponsoring test facilities.

These new reactors are radically different from today’s power plants and won’t be widely available for 10-20 years. That is why we still need interim storage, which is good revenue business for New Mexico.

Martin Kral

Roswell Resident

It is election time again. Started my letter writing campaign.

Here is my first letter of the season. It was already printed in the local paper and I have been working with the editor of the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper to fact-check the facts that I have stated in the letter to the editor:

Experience matters.

Oak Ridge National Labs has reported that there have been forty four thousand (44,000) transfers of spent nuclear fuel cask from location A to location B by truck, rail or ship around the world and not one single radioactive atom was released beyond acceptable background radiation levels. Twelve thousand transfers of transuranic waste have already come though Roswell over the last 18 years and not a single transport incident.

For the last ~70 years the nuclear industry has maintain a safety culture surpassed by no other industry, not even biological, and especially the O&G industry during boom times. Almost daily, the Hobbs and Carlsbad news is reporting another accident in the oil fields where people are hurt and killed while the health to the environment and population is being jeopardize with harmful pollutants released into the air. That is a fact and another fact is that most people in Southeast New Mexico have decided to live with it.

To be clear, I support the O&G industry in New Mexico because it is our ‘cash cow’ for revenue to the state, counties, cities and those healthy enough to work in the industry. There is a lot of money flowing right now and that is a good thing. But, someday the spigot will slow down again.

The political season is upon us and we have two candidates for governor that might as well be called yin and yang when it comes to an energy policy for New Mexico. I will let you figure out which one they are but one is for wind and solar farms and the other is for oil and gas.

There is a third candidate and that would be the NRC. It doesn’t even matter anymore whether the two primary candidates support or not support the Holtec Project to store spend nuclear fuel in New Mexico. The Federal Government makes the final decision to license HI-STORE CISF in Lea County.

As I said, experience matters and all the ‘what if’ is not going to change that.

Martin Kral
Roswell Resident

Here was my reference:

http://wcsstorage.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2016-08-ORNL-Report-on-Historical-Spent-Fuel-and-HLW-Safe-Transport.pdf

 

 

 

Holtec International is good business for New Mexico:

With the recent public awareness of the proposed HI-STORE CISF in Southeast New Mexico (SENM) to store spent nuclear fuel (SNF), also known as high level radioactive waste, there has been an enormity amount the misinformation being spewed around. There are a few anti-nuclear environmentalist leading the charge of a lot of what-if’ers. Most of these people are wearing blinders so it will be extremely difficult to change their minds about the reality of radiation based on science verses the fear of radiation based on all the legacy myths since the 1950’s.

It is not often a very successful and well respected international company wants to setup shop in New Mexico without demanding concessions like lengthy tax credits and huge subsidies. Here we have a company that is leading the industry with the best technology for safe and secure nuclear waste storage. Here we have a company with a proven track record not just in the country with the toughest nuclear regulatory laws, but worldwide. Here we have a company without a single safety incident to cause harm to the environment and the health of the surrounding community. And yet, there are those who are vehemently against Holtec International coming to New Mexico for only one reason – fear.

The first thing I want to say is ‘thank you’ to the nuclear industry for saving all the unused nuclear fuel that is considered spent because it went through the nuclear reactor once and cannot be return to the same reactor as nuclear fuel. Then I want to thank Holtec International for taking on the task of developing the technology to store SNF in long term dry cask systems. The US Government has failed the nuclear industry in the US because of foolish policies regarding radiation. This notion that SNF has to be stored in deep repository underground for thousands of years was an extreme reaction to the misunderstanding of radiation following the days of discovering actinides beyond uranium and thorium.

The current nuclear industry has used enriched natural uranium from the earth to manufacture solid nuclear fuel pellets for today’s water cooled reactors for over 70 years and now there are tons of deplete uranium (DU) left from the enrichment process. This DU, along with SNF, could easily power the world for centuries without ever having to mine another ounce if the newer advanced reactors are technically designed to consume it. And that is exactly what is on the horizon with the Elysium Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor (MCSFR) and others. These advanced reactors will have the ability to eventually consume the tons of alleged nuclear waste (SNF, DU, and even weapon grade plutonium) with a few pounds of radioactive isotopes leftover to manage.

It only seems natural for New Mexico to expand it nuclear industry with HI-STORE CISF. After all, we already have WIPP (transuranic waste), URENCO (deplete nuclear fuel) and just across the border with Texas, Waste Control Specialist (low-level radioactive waste) that makes up a very narrow nuclear corridor. What is unique about the nuclear storage industry is that its small footprint doesn’t destroy the beauty of the New Mexico landscape with thousands of monstrous windmills and seas of black panels or doesn’t chop up and scar the landscape with thousands of oil wells with their pump jacks every few hundred yards. Now that is a lot of pollution that will have to be dealt with by the next generation of New Mexicans.

Holtec International precedes SNF storage with their Proto-Prompt Decommissioning System. This process allows Holtec to completely decommission a nuclear power plant site within 8 years instead of the 60 years that the NRC allows. A very important component of the PPD system is the availability of an interim storage facility like the proposed HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The funds from each site’s decommissioning trust will be transferred to Holtec upon closing and will be used by Holtec to cover the cost of the decommissioning. The trust fund was established decades ago to pay for decommissioning, and no additional funds from utility customers will be required. What other energy industry does that? None!

Holtec International has acquired contracts to take over the next nuclear power plants destine for closure and decommissioning; Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Michigan, and the already decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix, Michigan. Holtec will become the owners of the SNF at each of these sites and will completely decontaminate and return the site back to nature with no trace of radiation beyond natural background. For those familiar with Rocky Flats, Colorado, the wild animal life are enjoying their new nature preserve. So are the critters at Chernobyl, where Holtec has an interim storage facility.

Spent nuclear fuel is not nuclear waste. It is the fuel to generate electricity, desalinate saline waters, and provides special isotopes for the medical industry. It also has isotopes used to explore the depth of our oceans and probe the galaxies of our universe. Waste is only waste if it does not have a purpose.

Holtec International, a world leader in the nuclear industry, offers New Mexico the opportunity to generate a steady stream of new revenues and high paying jobs without the burden of new business tax credit (like Facebook) or huge subsidies (like wind and solar). Oil and Gas has been in New Mexico for decades and it has been our cash cow only when it is healthy. For more detail about HoltecInternational.com, visit their web site.

Homer Simpson as nuclear safety inspector: D’oh!

When it comes to nuclear safety, Homer Simpson is probably not the character you want as your safety inspector. During Homer’s employment at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, he had several different jobs. It really didn’t matter what job Homer had, he was sure to screw it up. I have decided to take you on a journey with Homer Simpson being the assigned representative to monitor the transfer of spent nuclear fuel from Springfield to its final destination, New Mexico. This episode will start in Springfield with Mr. Burns assigning Homer the responsibility to make sure their valuable spent nuclear fuel rods reach the New Mexico interim storage site safe and sound. D’oh!

Every eighteen month or so, a third of the fuel rods in the reactor has to be removed and placed in water cooling pools inside the nuclear power plant facility. These pools are forty feet deep and one day our Homer, the safety inspector, wasn’t paying attention (texting) as usual and accidently fell over the guard rail. Leave it to Homer to make the best of the situation and he started to back stroke all around the large pool. Now you would think this would expose Homer to radiation but actually his dosimeter never went off. Water is a natural barrier for radiation. Regardless, Mr. Burns decided it was time to get Homer out of the plant before something terrible happens, even though nuclear power plants are the safest work environments in the energy industries. D’oh!

It takes about 5 years for the spent nuclear fuel rods to cool down enough to place them in dry storage cask. One day while Homer was inspecting these dry storage cask as part of his new assignment outside the actual reactor containment building, he decide to take a catnap up against one of them. He spent most of the afternoon napping and again his dosimeter did not go off with a warning beep. The effects of radiation are measured in dose and time. The lower the dose, the longer the time you can be exposed. Once the rods are placed inside the sealed cask there is no high dose exposure, so Homer was completely safe. After all, he is the safety inspector. D”oh!

For the last thirty years, spent nuclear fuel has been stored at each nuclear power plant and Springfield was no different, except for their safety inspector, Homer Simpson. Again, Mr. Burns has had it with Homer anywhere near the nuclear plant facility so he decides to give Homer the safety inspector position for transporting spent nuclear fuel to New Mexico. When Homer told Marge, she and the kids also decided to join Homer on his first assignment in another state – the Land of Enchantment. While Marge and the kids flew to Roswell, Homer had to take the ‘unit train’ with the dry cask onboard. It was Homer’s responsibility to manage any possible accident that might cause a radiation discharge. D’oh!

Thank God these cask won’t leak regardless of the elements that might be presented. Even though Homer has over 30 years working in the nuclear industry, these unit train transfers were a completely new adventure for him. Of course he went through all the NRC training that everyone working in the nuclear industry goes through, but you never know which class Homer may have slept through. Actually, Homer is just on board for the ride because the unit trains are completely safe and secured. D’oh!

As the train makes its way across the United States, it will only stop to change engineers and security guards with a fresh crew. Only Homer stays with the unit train because he has been doing nothing but sightseeing and sleeping. As the train works its way south to Carlsbad, it slowly goes though Roswell where Homer thinks he sees UFOs. No wait, it is just Marge and the kids waving from the 2nd street upgraded crossing. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Homer has to stay with the unit train heading south as it passes through dairy country. Homer’s natural nose meter goes off he realizes this section of the trip doesn’t pass the smell test. D’oh!

After finally reaching the Holtec HI-STORE CISF site, Homer’s work is completed. However, his curiosity wants to see where these cask are going to be stacked up. His host takes Homer out back and says “there it is!” Homer looks puzzled, “where is it?” Homer didn’t realize that the entire storage facility is submerged underground inside silo like containment cylinder to provide safe storage of each cask for at least 300 years. Homer realizes that this might be the ultimate cushy safety inspection job. Double D’oh!

The technology used to store and transfer spent nuclear fuel is the safest man can actually manufacture. Even Homer Simpson could not screw this up. The Holtec transfer and storage cask technology will finally allow the federal government to fulfill their commitment to the Utilities and the general public, that this nuclear fuel will be removed from the individual power plant sites and consolidated in a fuel depot for future use as fuel for the new generation of nuclear reactors. D’oh!

From the Ice Ages to the Nuclear Age:

The last ice age started about 20,000 years ago (and technically still exist) and it is the last in a series of 5 recorded ice ages here on earth so far. The title of this article is a bit of an oxymoron because the nuclear age has existed from the very beginning of the earth’s creation. In fact, the very first nuclear reactor was not invented by man in the 1940’s but was created by nature over 2 billion years ago in the Oklo mine of Gabon, West Africa, which preceded the beginning of the ice ages.

How does an ice age even get started? Well, it could start with a slight tilt of the earth causing cooler summers until the ice forms over the northern hemisphere. There are other theories but I find that one the most realistic. The largest ice sheet ever, grew over North America and shaped the landscape we know today. Most living creatures and plants migrated south to more temperate climates. Los Angeles wasn’t always steel structures and concrete freeways, but was home of the saber-tooth tiger some 40,000 years ago. The saber-tooth tiger was one of several ice age animals that no longer exist today but was the most popular cat on all continents, not just North and South America.

Through forensic technology, the life style of ice age animals can be determined from their remains. The La Brea Tar Pits (a time portal) in Los Angeles has been an invaluable source for the remains of that epoch. Through the use of nuclear MRI and CT Scans of the bones using radioactive isotopes, scientist are able to determine that the Smilodon Tiger (saber-tooth) had more massive structures than other animals and were able to dominate their ecosystem. These larger ice age mammals thrived in the lush landscape that we now know as the arid southwest United States.

The Laurentide Ice Sheet, ~2.5 million years ago, covered most of North America and through the millenniums advanced from the North Pole and retreated as many as five times. At times the sea levels dropped as much as 400 feet. That would make San Francisco Bay a fertile valley for animals to graze in. The Tully elk is one of the survivors of that time period and are thriving in a nature preserve along the west coast. One of the larger animals was the Columbian (Woolly) Mammoth, elephant like creature migrating between the tundra of Russia and North America. These very large animals and the lush landscape contributed to the O&G industry of Southern California and as far east as the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico.

There were several ‘woolly’ ice age animals that roamed below the ice sheets of Europe and Russia and fed on grasslands from Alaska all the way to England known as the mammoth steppe. There was also the Neanderthal who survived several ice ages themselves and were hunters of the woollies. Most ice age large animals and the Neanderthals did not survive this last ice age. However, there were also Homo sapiens (that’s us folks) around that did survive. As the earth warmed and the climate changed, what kill off so many of the ice age large animals?

As the fifth great thaw began northward this last time, many of the ice age giants started to migrate but eventually went extinct. Why? As these plant eating giants evolved to the new climate, from mammoth to mastodon to elephant, humans started butchering the animals for food, predominately the larger males. Apparently, man became the first weapon of mass destruction. With the help of fungus, warming climate change, and rain, the food chain also transformed. About 14,000 years ago the last of the woollies and other large ice age animals and their dependent groupies, all went extinct.

The horse was one of those ice age animals that man did manage to save and domesticated them. Will another ice age ever occur again? Maybe, but first we have to get though the existing one. It will be about 150 million years from now before the sixth ice age will occur based on historical geological data. It appears the shortage of food and water were the primary causes of plant and animal extinctions following this last great thaw where ice retreated all the way back to the North Pole region.

So the next question to ask; are we getting close to ending the fifth ice age. My personal answer would be yes. However, it is possible for man to avoid an extinction of itself by adapting to the climate change that has already started with the warming of the earth and the melting of the ice sheets. Technology will be at the center of that adaptation starting with a cleaner energy source to provide the power that will be needed. This notion that wind and solar farms are going to do the trick is very foolish. Nuclear energy is the only way to mitigate our way forward with the changing climate. Remember, food and fresh water will be critical to sustain 10 billion people.

From Nuclear Waste to a Medical Treasure:

When it comes to a miracle drug to cure cancer, you have to be very careful with what you read and it is always best to talk to your oncologist. However, there has been some major advancements in treatments that have done well to suppress various types of cancers. Given that disclosure, there is a cure for some cancers found in an Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) nuclear waste storage container. Actinium-225, an isotope of the element actinium, which is usually found in uranium, is proving effective in curing – not just treating – myeloid leukemia.

Using actinium to cure myeloid leukemia is the only clinical trial for the isotope in the United States currently, but multiple trials are going on in Europe where they have found the isotope is also effective in treating prostate cancer and brain tumors. For now, American patients who have acute myeloid leukemia and are over the age of 60 can participate in the experimental treatment here, as long as they have gone through other treatments without success or if the disease has come back from remission. The isotope, when combined with tumor-seeking antibodies, is able to target and kill cancer cells without affecting healthy cells that surround them.

To start with, how did they find this cure and why were they looking at actinium? With millions of procedures a year, nuclear medicine is a force to be reckoned with. Ever since the discovery of x-rays, thanks to Madame Curie, and the mechanisms of the atom, medicine has made a quantum leap into the future. Radionuclides and radioactivity have helped us diagnose and treat countless numbers of conditions and diseases, which would otherwise have remained elusive to us. So it was only natural to find other isotopes in the nuclear sequence.

Myeloid leukemia is a rare and rapidly progressing blood and bone marrow cancer that interferes with the body’s production of platelets and normal white and red blood cells. The cancer is treatable in young patients, but often fatal for people over 60 years of age. That’s particularly problematic because the American Cancer Society says 67 is the average age of diagnosis. That is why the clinical trials are for those over 60 years of age. Actinium-225 has successfully treated the disease in elderly patients. ORNL nuclear medical scientist Dr. Saed Mirzadeh said some patients went into remission after only one treatment.

Dr. Mirzadeh came to ORNL from Iran in 1995. He had researched actinium-225 for years before he came to the United States seeking weapons-grade uranium from which to extract the miracle isotope. However, actinium is a byproduct of uranium-233, which the United States produced for ORNL’s molten salt reactor experiment (MSRE) in the 1960s. Uranium-233 is not a natural element found in the crust of the earth like U-235, U-238 and Th-232 that are used as fuel in a nuclear reactor. So it had to be manufactured through quick fission activity in a reactor or wait for a lengthy decay chain process. The only problem is, we no longer have that early version of a molten salt reactor to produce U-233 in the thorium fuel cycle. There was a limited waste supply from the 1960’s in storage that Dr. Mirzadeh was able to work with.

The actinium-225 targeted therapy cancer treatment is in the second phase of its clinical trials on human subjects, but has not yet been approved by the FDA. After this phase, it has one more to go through before the FDA will determine if it can be released to the market. However, President Trump has signed the ‘Right to Try’ legislation so more people will be able to get access to the treatment and possible cure. New Mexico was one of ten states that did not have a state law for right to try. This new federal law now allows us here in New Mexico to also seek out experimental treatments.

This brings us full circle again on why the Holtec HI-STORE CISF is such an important project to be developed, and more importantly, developed here in New Mexico. Spent nuclear fuel consist of ~95% U-238 and U-235 mixed that can still be used as fuel in advance reactor designs and the other 5% consisting of a variety of useful isotopes that can be used for medical purposes. There is no trash in spent nuclear fuel, only unused isotope treasures.

There are two approaches that can be taken to insure that there will always be enough isotopes to provide the medical field what they will need for treatment programs and additional research projects. The first is to utilize the isotopes we have in left over nuclear fuels (i.e. waste or trash) that are in storage all over the US and second to manufacture more isotopes through the thorium fuel cycle creating the daughter isotopes of Uranium-233 in advance Thorium Molten Salt Reactors.

There is no waste in spent nuclear fuel, only wasted opportunities.