Author Archives: Martin Kral

About Martin Kral

Retired, just having fun writing about energy.

Why does spent nuclear fuel even exist?

Have you ever wondered why a nuclear reactor just doesn’t ‘burn up’ all its fuel like a natural gas furnace does?  The simple answer to that question is: politics. Technically, there should be no such thing as spent nuclear fuel. It exist today because the government created the problem back in the 1940’s. Everyone should be aware of New Mexico’s contribution to the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. Code named ‘Trinity’, the very first atomic bomb to be detonated was fueled by plutonium created in a fission atomic pile (aka: reactor) scrammed early before all the uranium fuel was consumed.

After WWII, the Navy wanted a nuclear reactor for their submarines and the Air Force wanted one for their long range bombers. Alvin Weinberg, a nuclear physicist and chemists designed two reactor models: a solid uranium fueled water cooled reactor which was perfect for the Navy because the ocean provided all the water needed to moderate the heat generated in the reactor core. This would not work so well for a bomber, so the second design was a molten salt reactor to moderate the heat in the reactor core which was not the best solution for under water. Therefore, both designs were developed and tested.

With the success of the first nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, Admiral Rickover wanted a scaled up reactor for land base use and he chose the water cooled water design which he was familiar with. Dr. Alvin Weinberg opposed this strategy and highly recommended the molten salt reactor. It was a safer solution for land based nuclear energy generation because it could never have a meltdown (already liquid) and consumed all of its fuel (no waste) and did not generate useful plutonium for nuclear bombs.

Weinberg lost that argument and politics overrode physical science because the military wanted the plutonium for its warheads and the molten salt reactor was defunded and put on the shelf. The solid fueled water cooled reactor was forced upon the utility industry as part of the ‘Atoms for Pearce’ initiative and that was the beginning of the spent nuclear fuel waste stream worldwide.

Here we are almost seventy years later with 99 reactors still active in the US (4 times more globally) generating tons of unusable leftover fuel that the current nuclear reactor fleet is unable to financially recycle. To safely store and secure this spent nuclear fuel, each nuclear power station had to build a 50ft deep cooling pool for the very hot solid fuel rods to be stored for at least 5 years to cool down enough to put in dry storage cask.

Holtec International was one of several early developers of leak proof canisters to store the unused solid fuel rod assemblies in. These canisters were then place in concrete and steel cask for secured long term storage above ground on concrete pads at every nuclear power plant site. Sandia Labs in New Mexico has tested the canister designs and cask designs at the Nevada Test Site against every possible condition to break the seal on these containers, which included the airplane/missile test. This is the very reason there have been no commercial transport or storage incidents in the US.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the DOE’s handling of nuclear waste (not SNF) where two incidents of radiation leakage occurred. In 2014 at WIPP in NM, a barrel of transuranic materials had a chemical explosion of incompatible organic materials. In 2018 at INL in Idaho, a 55 gal barrel filled with radioactive sludge from Rocky Flats, CO decommissioning, ruptured and was contained in the storage building. In both cases, a small amount of radiation was released that was less than your standard x-ray at your doctor’s office or your dentist.

Over 12,000 shipments of DOE transuranic waste have already passed through Roswell from DOE sites across the US to the WIPP facility near Carlsbad, NM without a single transport incident. The transport truck driver is a rare breed because they cannot have any traffic violations and never used any illegal drugs, ever. The trucks are GPS monitored and on every trip, the driver has to stop and walk around their rig every 100 miles to inspect and exercise their attentiveness for driving the next 100 miles. No other transport industry takes this kind of caution.

The nuclear transport ‘unit train’ has a very similar concept of caution but with an added security car for protection. The most important consideration about the unit train is that there has been 1,300 civilian spent fuel shipments across the U.S, and 850 naval spent fuel shipments made with zero leakage over the last 30 years. No other energy or transportation industry has that level of safety.

There is still over ~100,000 tons of SNF all over the country costing the Federal Government billions of dollars annually to store and secure with replicated systems and procedures that could be centralized here in New Mexico with most of those dollars fueling the New Mexico economy instead.

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Holtec International HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Project – My NCR Comments 5-11

Comment #5:

Holtec International was one of several early developers of leak proof canisters to store the unused solid fuel rod assemblies in. These canisters were than place in concrete and steel canisters/cask for long term storage above ground on concrete pads at every nuclear power plant site. Holtec and others have been transporting and storing spent nuclear fuel for over 30 years. Sandia Labs in New Mexico has tested the canister designs and cask designs at the Nevada Test Site against every possible condition to try to break the seal on these containers, which included the airplane/missile test. This is the very reason there have been no commercial transport or storage incidents in the US.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the DOE’s handling of nuclear waste (not SNF) where two incidents of leakage occurred in 2014 at WIPP in NM and 2017 at INL in Idaho. In both cases a small amount of radioactive actinides were released into the atmosphere, less than your standard x-ray at your doctor’s office or your dentist. Over 12,000 shipments of DOE transuranic waste has already passed through Roswell from DOE sites across the US to the WIPP facility near Carlsbad, NM without a single transport incident.
The transport truck driver is a rare breed because they cannot have any traffic violations and never used any illegal drugs, ever. The trucks are GPS monitored and on every trip, the driver has to stop and walk around his/her rig every 100 miles to inspect and exercise their attentiveness for driving the next 100 miles. No other transport industry takes this kind of caution, especially the oil industry. The nuclear transport ‘unit train’ has a very similar concept of caution that you will never see with an oil train coming though Roswell today. You will though, hear excessive train whistles with every train passing through and as Martha would say “this is a good thing”.
There is over 100,000 tons of SNF all over the country costing the Federal Government billions of dollars annually to store and secure with replicated systems and procedures that could be centralized here in New Mexico with most of those dollars fueling the New Mexico annual budget instead.

Comment #6:

The radiation we are exposed to everyday is less than it was when our very distant ancestors left the oceans and crawled out on dry land. So why is there this ‘fear’ of the very basis of life itself? Why is nuclear so demonized among the zealots demanding humans “denuclearize” the planet? Is there another agenda that has nothing to do with radiation but with another form of human behavior?
Energy in the form of carbon and radiation are the very staples of animal life here on earth. To decarbonize or denuclearize those energy sources would be one of the greatest immoralities by mankind. Radiation has never been an evolutionary threat to the biota and that is why we don’t have any detection sensory for it. In other words, we have no biological Geiger counter for sensing radiation. We can’t see it, feel it, taste it, hear it or smell it.
There isn’t a spot anywhere on earth without background radiation. It comes from natural uranium and thorium and their decay products in the earth’s crust, from a naturally radioactive form of potassium (in foods), from cosmic radiation, and many other sources. Humans and all life on the planet have evolved in a naturally radioactive environment.
This fear of nuclear radiation is irrational when you understand what is safe and not safe. All countries have taken safe guards to contain high levels of radiation. Three major ‘exposure’ accidents and several minor incidents from nuclear energy from around the world has not ended up as a nuclear catastrophe. Fear of nuclear has resulted in several financial disasters. Nuclear is a controlled risk.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #7:

Response to article in New Mexican regarding NM Legislators concerns:
1) Lack of permanent repository – H.R. 3053 has proposed to resume the licensing of Yucca Mountain. This answer that concern.
2) Only a 40 year lease – this time period has been the standard for the NRC since building nuclear power plants. Most likely, the least will be extended if more time to find a permanent location is needed.
3) We didn’t create this – it’s funny how people seem to forget history. The nuclear industry was born out of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico. In fact there were two designs for land based fission reactors: solid fueled light water core and liquid fueled molten salt core. The government picked the wrong one, Senator.
4) Threat to oil and gas industry – when asked how, those people are not educated enough about the system to state why. They only know how to make money so there needs to be a financial benefit for them. It has been suggested that they could leverage the cheap (almost too cheap to meter) 190C heat in the canister to distill their waste water from the fracking process. The environment would benefit too.
5) Safe transportation to the facility – the SNF would only be transported by rail on only one line from the west coast through New Mexico to Clovis where it would then roll south to Carlsbad. There are only a few small communities on either of these lines. Transport by Unit Trains would be secured high priority non-stop to its destination.
6) Safest system in the world – There is always 3 layers of protection around the SNF. The cladding around the fuel rods, the canister for wet/dry storage for cooling and then the concrete/steel cask (above ground) or silo (underground) to protect the fuel from the outside world elements in transport, transfer and interim storage.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #8:

There are very few people living near the proposed SNF CISF in Carlsbad NM or along the rail line to transport the SNF from the rest of the US through Clovis, NM to Carlsbad, NM.
New Mexico has a population of 2 million people and a land mass of 122,000 square miles. Of that, only ~90,000 are living along the BNSF rail line from Gallup (22,670) on the west state line to Clovis (39,373) on the east state line. In between are ~12 towns, 9 are less than 1,000 residents and the other 3 are less than 10,000. From Clovis to Carlsbad (28,914) there are 5 towns; Portales (11,989), Roswell (48,184), Dexter (1,264), Hagerman (1,244) and Artesia (12,232). That is another ~104,000 living along the BNSF rail line from Clovis to Carlsbad. New Mexico has ~194,000 or less than 10% of the population living along the BNSF railroad line that will carry SNF and the three major metro areas; Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Los Cruzes are not anywhere near the BNSF railroad line.
Lea and Eddy counties have a combined population of 118,556 or 6% of the state population and 7% of the land mass and a ~30% plus portion of the tax revenue to the state budget. Both counties vote 70% Republican, while the western and northern parts of the state vote Democrat. It appears this state is divided over the issue of Holtec storing SNF in Eddy-Lea counties and at the same time, okay with plutonium manufacturing at Los Alamos Nation Labs and the development of a nuclear reactor call ‘kilopower’ using highly enriched uranium at Sandia Labs. That sounds a bit hypocritical. Furthermore, there are some 20,000 existing plutonium pitts stored at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas that were/are transported through Kirkland Air Base at the Albuquerque International Sunport.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #9:

The Department of Defense has shipped over 30,000 units of SNF from both the East Coast and the West Coast to the Naval Recovery Laboratory (NRL) near Idaho National Labs (INL) for over 30 years without incident. The NRL supports the final stages of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program’s mission through transportation and processing spent nuclear fuel for packaging and safe long-term storage after it has been removed from aircraft carriers and submarines. NRF has by default become an interim storage facility for military SNF only. This facility has proven for decades that SNF transport and storage is safe.
Now it is time for the commercial NPP’s to replicate the success of the military in SNF transport management. The ELEA/Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility is a proposed site and the recent Sandia Labs Transport Test provides guidance for Holtec to manage acceptance, transportation and disposal of SNF and HLW in a manner that protects the public health, safety, and the environment; enhances national and energy security; and features public confidence. Holtec International has already been transporting and storing SNF for decades here in the US and around the world.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #10:

Liberal novelist/journalist and New Mexico native Gwyneth Cravens explained:

“Spent-fuel assemblies [are] hauled from nuclear plants by rail or truck … using vehicles and containers that meet NRC and Department of Transportation regulations. The shell of a nuclear waste cask is fifteen times thicker than that of a gasoline tank truck; it must have three inches of stainless steel as well as thick radiation shields. Nothing can escape the double-shelled, impact-resistant steel casks, even in the worst collision. Furthermore, the transportation specialist hired by the State of Nevada to highlight problems acknowledges that these casks “are among the best containers that humans know how to make to contain hazardous materials.”

Once in New Mexico, there’s no reason to think Holtec’s facility will pose any environmental risks. Once again, the location is darn-near perfect, given its remoteness and aridness and lack of “threatened” wildlife. Shielded from radioactivity by Holtec’s “HI-STORM UMAX Storage System technology” (licensed by the NRC, of course), the people of southeast New Mexico should lose no sleep about SNF stored in their community.

Comment #11:

I have already written an article about my opinion of calling the ELEA/Holtec project ‘interim’ storage because storing a nuclear fuel with an energy density to supply all the fuel needed for generating electricity over the next 400 years in just the US, is not interim. If every one of our current water cooled nuclear reactors were replaced with an advance fast spectrum molten salt reactor (all 99) this stored nuclear fuel along with the depleted uranium stored at URENCO could last 4,000 years with each individual reactor producing 30% more electricity than today’s fleet. So, the conclusion for me is that ELEA/Holtec project is not just about storing SNF but about a whole new industry of industrial heat for clean water, clean electricity, medical isotopes and of course nuclear fuel for the next centuries.

The one major benefit that I have not touched on yet is the billions of dollars to the State of New Mexico. Of course, there will be storage fees for the SNF but there will also be hundreds of very well paying jobs from construction to operation and everything in between and secondary businesses that always pop up around every major industry. The primary taxes like corporate taxes, income taxes, gross receipt taxes alone will increase the state revenue source so that schools, roads and other social needs can be addressed instead of always waiting for the next year’s state budget. I think everyone could appreciate that.

Holtec International HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Project – My NCR Comments 1-4

Here are my comment #1 – #4 to the NCR so far. I will be sending more positive comments in over the next few weeks until the deadline of July 30, 2018.

Comment #1 – This comment was written to be given in person but that didn’t happen. I sent it to the NRC instead:

Good Evening:
My name is Martin Kral and I live here in Roswell:
I am here to address the elephant in the room – the ‘what if!’
So what if WIPP has a radiation leak? Well, it did, 4 years ago.
And here we are safe and sound. What if, never happened!
Not a single dairy farm or cheese plant shut down.
Not a single oil pumper or refinery shut down.
Not a single highway or railroad shut down.
AND, not a single school or store shut down.
So what was shut down? – WIPP was after the monitor/filtering system activated alarms.
After a few upgrades and decontamination, WIPP has reopened.
For 18 years, GPS monitored WIPP trucks have been driving through Roswell – 12K shipments.
Not a single transport incident. Most people don’t know this, nor do they care.
So I ask – Where is that ‘what if’?
According to the World Health Organization:
It didn’t show up at TMI – no deaths.
It didn’t show up at Fukushima – no deaths from acute radiation.
Only the Soviets blew it at Chernobyl, but only once. They had no containment structure.
Today, Chernobyl is a thriving nature preserve for the animal kingdom.
Holtec is also at Chernobyl – managing the world’s largest unused fuel rod dry storage facility.
For sixty years, the US Nuclear Industry has had a near flawless safety record.
But, here’s what’s important to remember, there is always risk and then there is controlled risk.
And that is what the NRC is all about.
Thank you for giving me this time.

Comment #2:

My name is Martin Kral and I live in Roswell, NM. I have been following the ELEA/Holtec relationship regarding the Consolidated Interim Storage Facility east of Carlsbad, NM for several years. While everyone seems to be focused on the safe transfer and storage technology, that is not really an issue here in New Mexico. Most everyone in the scoping meetings have agreed that the SNF is safely stored at all the existing nuclear power plant sites and that nuclear waste transfer to WIPP has been very safe also. I haven’t been able to figure out the technical reasons for not allowing SNF to be transferred and stored in New Mexico. There isn’t any technical reason – period.
With the recent decommissioning of nuclear power plants in the US and a number of shutters pending, there is going to be even a greater need to locate SNF at an interim location before final destination. Holtec is investing a lot of money into a new system that will accelerate the decommissioning of shutter NPP with a system where they will be able to decommission in half the time it takes today. This new system is dependent on the availability of an interim storage facility. This new decommissioning system will save the DOE/NRC billions of dollars in addition to the billions that would be save by providing an interim storage facility until Yucca Mountain is licensed.
The new advanced fast spectrum reactors will eventually become an option to consume the SNF once they are commercialized. These new reactors will reduce waste actinides to a mere few pounds.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #3:

Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2018, H.R. 3053. This important legislation is the first step in addressing the stalemate on a sustainable used fuel program that has persisted for almost a decade and has caused taxpayers to be saddled with billions in costs because the government is 20 years late in picking up the used fuel. The legislation provides a path forward for all stakeholders.
Today, used nuclear fuel is stored safely and securely on-site at nuclear energy facilities around the country. However, the government’s failure to meet its statutory obligation to pick up the nation’s used nuclear fuel has cost taxpayers over $6 billion. While there will continue to be a significant impact on taxpayers while further legislative action is pending, H.R. 3053 paves the way for this obligation to finally be met. Importantly, this bill will allow the U.S. to move forward on consolidated interim storage which will help expedite the removal of used fuel from local communities and allow them to begin to redevelop the sites while the permanent repository undergoes final consideration and construction.
I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

Comment #4:

Well, enough is enough and now is the time to move past the technology of the 1950’s, the fission reactors designed to power navy ships in the cold blue ocean waters that kept the fission reaction moderated and managed. These reactors were small and when the US government decided to scale up the size and move the reactor to land sites they introduced three primary problems; 1) they required water to keep them cool and if they lost that cooling, the reactor would over heat and melt the core (Fukushima), 2) they did not use up all the fuel and had to store the unused portion, 3) and then there was the problem of proliferation of actinides if not properly secured. These three problems created a tremendous cost overhead for the nuclear industry to manage.
After sixty years the nuclear industry has managed to control these expensive, but very safe, water cooled nuclear reactors and at the same time, generated over 100,000 tons of unused uranium fuel which was also managed in a safe environment. Today, everyone is focused on safe storage technology and interim locations of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) when that isn’t a problem or a final solution.
What we should be focused on is how to completely eliminate the entire SNF issue. That can only be done with advanced nuclear reactors designed to consume all the nuclear fuel without waste, in a fission process that is already liquid and will never melt down and most important, walk away safe, all for pennies on the dollar compared to today’s heavily regulated nuclear power fleet.
However, until those advanced reactors are commercially available, we do have to store the SNF in a Consolidated Interim Storage facility. I would prefer the Holtec Hi-Store CIS in New Mexico over the competitive site at WCS in West Texas.

The Final Spent Nuclear Fuel Solution:

Seven hundred years ago in England, an energy crisis was caused by massive deforestation and a lack of firewood. It was solved by turning to coal, a filthy, inexpensive, and abundant fuel. But as the skies darkened over the cities of England and the United States, people turned to gas and oil to improve the situation. Now the existing usage of these fossil fuels will have to be eliminated or cleaned up due to the environmental damage they cause and the social, political, and financial instability they will eventually engender.

Fortunately, in 1939, some smart people discovered the physical process that would allow us to generate clean electricity power forever—the fission of the heavy elements known as actinides. By 1944, those smart people realized there were actually several different ways to use this physical process to provide a new clean energy.

One of those approaches was relativity easy. It involved the use of a substance almost as rare as gold—uranium-235. Even back then, physicists realized that uranium-235 fission was not going to be a long-term energy solution. There simply wasn’t enough of it discovered at that time. The other two approaches were more difficult to fission but promised essentially unlimited amounts of energy. One was to fission the common isotope of uranium-238, and the other was the use of thorium-232, which was abundant on every continent and the moon.

In one of the great historical tragedies of human history, this marvelous new energy source was discovered during a time of war, and was immediately put to work for destructive means. This colored and affected forever how world leaders and the public would view this incredible discovery, and created a legacy that we find ourselves, seventy years later, still trying to move past.

Well, enough is enough and now is the time to move past the technology of the 1950’s, the fission reactors designed to power navy ships in the cold blue ocean waters that kept the fission reaction moderated and managed. These reactors were small and when the US government decided to scale up the size and move the reactor to land sites they introduced three primary problems; 1) they required water to keep them cool and if they lost that cooling, the reactor would over heat and melt the core (Fukushima), 2) they did not use up all the fuel and had to store the unused portion, 3) and then there was the problem of proliferation of actinides if not properly secured. These three problems created a tremendous cost overhead for the nuclear industry to manage.

After sixty years the nuclear industry has managed to control these expensive, but very safe, water cooled nuclear reactors and at the same time, generated over 100,000 tons of unused uranium fuel which was also managed in a safe environment. Today, everyone is focused on safe storage technology and interim locations of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) when that isn’t a problem or a final solution.

What we should be focused on is how to completely eliminate the entire SNF issue. That can only be done with advanced nuclear reactors designed to consume all the nuclear fuel without waste, in a fission process that is already liquid and will never melt down and most important, walk away safe, all for pennies on the dollar compared to today’s heavily regulated nuclear power fleet.

There are over 77 independent R&D private investment ventures solving the next generation of reactors while eliminating the problems of the past. Several of the better designs I have studied are based on two primary processes – molten fluoride salt ‘thermal’ reactors (MFSTR) using both liquid uranium or liquid thorium fuels and the molten chloride salt ‘fast’ reactors (MCSFR) using the liquefied source of fuels like SNF, depleted uranium and weapons grade plutonium. The fast reactor is the immediate solution for getting rid of all existing stored nuclear fuels that many people are very concerned about. The thermal reactor is the final energy solution here on earth and throughout deep space with unlimited thorium as its fuel base. That is, until something better comes along (like fusion).

There are those that just want to store tons of HLW/SNF in deep repositories like Yucca Mountain for thousands of years. However, if the SNF is stored in neutron absorbing dry canisters those actinides will remain highly radioactive, but only for 300 years. There is one last process: to use the SNF as fuel in fast spectrum reactors which will reduce those actinides to a high level radioactive duration of only 100 years. What is left over can be chemically separated to remove medical isotopes and discard the unused isotopes in a deep repository like Yucca Mountain for permanent storage or even a simple bore hole for permanent storage or better yet, recycle them back into the fast reactors fuel stream again.

What we have done is taken ~100,000 tons of HLW/SNF and reduced it to a few highly radioactive grams of actinides and tons of natural uranium to put back in the ground where it came from. Although this is not 100% elimination, it is 99.9% and if they still need a place to safely store that .1%, I have plenty of room in my backyard.

My greatest asset is nuclear curiosity:

At seventy years of age, my greatest asset is my curiosity to learn. It started early in my childhood when I took everything apart to see what made it work. I have not lost that curiosity after 35 years in the Information Technology (IT) industry followed by 15 years in the trade industries flipping houses where I did all the work. Today I am retired from earning an income but my mind is still very active and my hands are still working this keyboard.

I do not receive a penny for my articles from the RDR, nor do I receive any money from the energy industries, whether nuclear, O&G or renewable, nor do I have any stock investment in any of them. The only connection I have is through my Social Security check. Whether any of these industries succeed or not is no skin off my nose. Therefore, I consider myself neutral on the outcome of the nuclear fuel storage facility.

With the recent NRC Scoping meetings in Roswell, Hobbs and Carlsbad concerning the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) required to license and build the Holtec HI-STORE storage facility, there is finally more interest by local residents to know what is going on. My personal opinion on this matter has been completely transparent for the last five plus years through my writings. I find nuclear the most intriguing science and its technology the most fascinating to construct.

When I look at the agendas of those who are so adamant about not even considering the possibility of having solid spent nuclear fuel (SNF) rods stored in New Mexico, I get mixed signals. The one common thread in their position is that the storage containers themselves are perfectly safe where they sit on the ground at each active and decommissioned commercial nuclear plant site, all 77 locations across the US, but would not be safe to store in New Mexico.

This does not include all the DOE sites in the US with stored radioactive materials because they are not included in the Holtec HI_STORE license application. DOE has the WIPP facility here in New Mexico storing DOE transuranic waste materials for the last 15 years and the Naval Nuclear Laboratory in Idaho storing spent nuclear fuel from the Navy’s nuclear power fleet for the last 30 years.

Even though nuclear storage technology has over 30 years of experience in transporting and storing all classifications of nuclear materials, without any serious health issues directly related, there are still people who will never accept nuclear and continue with the legacy of ‘what if’ fear from over exposure of radiation. There are a lot of people ‘stuck’ in this legacy of the past as the world of science and technology has accelerated past them. The fear was created by the federal government to keep communism in check when the Soviets finally developed their own atomic bombs. Those bombs have manage to keep WWIII from every happening. So the fear actually worked quite well.

Unfortunately that fear bled over into the era of nuclear energy and the possibilities of having clean cheap electricity for all. Even with the anti-nuclear, anti-fossil and most recently anti-renewable activism, all those energy sources are still growing around the world because the population is still expanding. With cell phone technology and satellite connectivity, the less developed countries are seeing how life could be more abundant than what they have. But, not everyone sees nuclear energy as the cornerstone of moving humanity forward.

There were about 10 people at all three meetings who were opposed to the storage of nuclear fuel for non-scientific environmental justice reasons. How can you actually view God’s greatest creation, the atom, as something evil now that man has figured out how to benefit from its use to serve humanity? What they fail to understand (or admit) is that God gave man free will and intelligence, therefore the ability to be curious and to learn how he did it. Albert Einstein had the same problem throughout his career and was even accused of being a communist. For God’s sake, he was a Jew.

There was another large contingent of people from Texas opposed to the storage of SNF in New Mexico and Texas as well. Their primary interest was in their personal investments and who can blame them. They have spent their lives to acquire their wealth and they will protect it at all cost. There were a number of O&G and landowners at these meetings and they don’t want the Holtec HI_STORE in their back yard (NIMBY). Most of those people are well educated and understand basic engineering principles, so they know the technology is not the issue.

Then there is this entire group of silent supporters at the meeting who were intimated by the overwhelming presence of those whose arguments against this technology were intentionally designed to incite fear through misrepresentation. If you have doubt, you must spend time to learn the basics of radiation. You will be amazed at how much there is in our daily lives.

Nuclear fuel storage technology is not the problem:

The technology to safely store nuclear fuel was not the problem commented on at the NRC scoping meeting in Roswell last week. The general consensus of the group was that the storage canisters are safe right where they are located at the nuclear power plants or safe anywhere except in our back yard (NIMBY). If it is so safe at 77 locations across the US, why wouldn’t they be safe in New Mexico?

Every statement made by those in attendance were not about faulty unsafe technology, so the storage technology is not the problem. “What if” is still the problem and has been since the very beginning of the nuclear energy industry even though nuclear has been the safest of all energy sources, ever.

It just seems like everyone is in a state of suspended animation of the 1950’s duck and cover fear when it comes to nuclear. After the horrific pictures of devastation following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fear was used to prevent any more atomic bombs from being dropped anywhere. It is unfortunate that the same fear was extended to good nuclear for clean energy, medical diagnostics and especially for treating cancer.

The early reactor designs did not consume all the fuel within the solid uranium rods and created a waste that had to be safely stored. This so called waste has turned out to be about 400 years of fuel if we replace every electricity generating source in the US with Gen4 molten chloride salt fast reactors. Once the existing unused fuel is consumed by fast reactors there will no longer be a need to store unused fuel.

In the meantime, we have safe transfer and storage technology to store existing rods and any future rods left over by the 99 existing Gen3 nuclear power plants until they are all decommissioned. There could be an estimated 110,000 tons, of which Yucca Mountain can only handle 70,000. An interim location is required until the fast reactors are commercialized – the final elimination solution.

There was the comment at the meeting that came from the Texas Rep who paid $2,000 for a large contingent of his fellow Texans to come to our house and tell us not to build the storage facility because their land is sinking around Midland, four inches since who knows when. When you extract the liquids out of the soil it has a tendency to collapse and that is what the Texans have been doing for over a 100 years – extracting both water and oil. Those Texans should be more concerned about what they are doing to their own state.

California’s Central Valley has been dropping 12 inches per year recently and this is after it had already dropped 50 plus feet since 1900, all from water and oil extraction. There is spent nuclear fuel stored at the decommissioned Rancho Seco nuclear power plant in dry canisters just south of Sacramento. There has been no problem with the canisters. That cocky bunch of roughneck Texans are more worried about 4 inches and storing nuclear fuel in New Mexico then what they are doing to our climate.

There was also the implied accusation by a Roswell politician that high level waste (HLW) was being stored at WIPP. This is not true. However, it is important to understand that actinides such as plutonium has a very short half-life and some the older plutonium at the DOE National Labs has been reclassified as low-level transuranic. Government transuranic waste is authorized to be stored at WIPP. Maybe this is why that politician got confused.

The next ‘what if’ I heard had to do with trains colliding at 60 miles per hour. One of the many tests that have been conducted on the strength of the canisters was the train crashing into a canister at 100 mph with the canister just rolling down the track with minor damage and no leakage. Then there was the military missile test where a missile traveling at 600 mph exploded on a canister and still no leakage.

Have you ever heard of a ‘unit train’? All spent nuclear fuel has been transported by unit trains from both the east coast and west coast Navy ship yards to Idaho Falls, Idaho without incident for the last 30 years. These unit trains are secured from the air and ground and are never split up or stored en route. They have high priority and travel non-stop to their destination.

Then there was the absurd one word statement – Genocide. Really! I have no technical rebuttal for that and not sure how it would even be handled in an environmental impact report.

There was only two people who got time to comment for the Holtec project. One was Holtec themselves and the other was a young Hispanic female millennial working on her degree in Nuclear Physics at UNM. She realizes the only way to curtail climate change is with nuclear energy.

The cost to review the Holtec license application will likely reach $7.5 million. With over 30 years of experience, I don’t think Holtec is taking this investment lightly. They did their homework and now it is time for us to do ours.

Life without carbon, radiation or rationality:

In order for mankind to continue its evolution here on earth it must use an energy source that is healthy to the environment and the welfare of the biota (animal life). Every epoch of time, man has learned and survived through the harsh climate elements starting with the knowledge of fire. Looking back, fire was one of those ‘aha’ moments in time where everything changed from using the sun for heat and light. Mankind now had an intellectual grasp that life could be better with controlled fire.

Energy in the form of carbon and radiation are the very staples of animal life here on earth. To decarbonize or denuclearize those energy sources would be one of the greatest immoralities by mankind. Radiation has never been an evolutionary threat to the biota and that is why we don’t have any detection sensory for it. In other words, we have no biological Geiger counter for sensing radiation. We can’t see it, feel it, taste it, hear it or smell it.

There isn’t a spot anywhere on earth without background radiation. It comes from natural uranium and thorium and their decay products in the earth’s crust, from a naturally radioactive form of potassium (in foods), from cosmic radiation, and many other sources. Humans and all life on the planet have evolved in a naturally radioactive environment.

The level of radiation in our environment has been very slowly decreasing as the Earth ages and the natural radioactive elements in the earth’s crust are slowly decaying away. The radiation we are exposed to today is less than it was when our very distant ancestors left the oceans and crawled out on dry land. So why is there this ‘fear’ of the very basis of life itself? Why is nuclear so demonized among the zealots demanding humans “denuclearize” the planet? Is there another agenda that has nothing to do with radiation but with another form of human behavior?

Carbon Dioxide is also required in the sphere of life. Without carbon dioxide there would be no plants. Without plants the earth would be black, not green. Plants get energy from the sun, are quenched by water (H2O) and fed by carbon dioxide creating Chlorophyll, the green coloring matter of leaves and plants essential to the production of carbohydrates by photosynthesis, the miracle of life. Without carbon dioxide there would be no life on the planet. So why is fossil fuels so demonized among the zealots demanding humans “decarbonize” the planet? Is their real agenda to decarbonize for environmental reasons or is there another agenda here also?

Well, if you were at the public scoping meeting by the NRC on Monday, 4/30, you would have had the opportunity to experience some of the most irrational behaviors toward nuclear and the NRC. Emotions were the rule of the night and one person was downright angry and scary. It is my experience that it is very difficult to have a conversation with anyone when one of the parties is emotional. I always say, count to ten and try again, which is my favorite and necessary idiom. But sometimes it is best to just walk away.

I personally had an opportunity to contribute my thoughts to those people opposed to the Holtec project to store unused nuclear fuel rods in New Mexico, but most of the 100 or so people had already left. Here is what I would have shared at the meeting:

“Good Evening:
My name is Martin Kral and I live here in Roswell.
I am here to address the elephant in the room – the ‘what if!’
So what if WIPP has a radiation leak? Well, it did, 4 years ago.
And here we are safe and sound. What if, never happened!
Not a single dairy farm or cheese plant shut down.
Not a single oil pump jack or refinery shut down.
Not a single highway or railroad shut down.
AND, not a single school or store shut down.
So what was shut down? – WIPP was after the monitor/filtering system activated alarms.
After a few upgrades and decontamination, WIPP has reopened.
For 18 years, GPS monitored WIPP trucks have been driving through Roswell – 12K shipments.
Not a single transport incident. Most people don’t know this, nor do they care.
So I ask – Where is that ‘what if’?
According to the World Health Organization:
It didn’t show up at TMI – no deaths.
It didn’t show up at Fukushima – no deaths from acute radiation.
Only the Soviets blew it at Chernobyl, but only once. They had no containment structure.
Today, Chernobyl is a thriving nature preserve for the animal kingdom.
Holtec is also at Chernobyl – managing the world’s largest unused fuel rod dry storage facility.
For sixty years, the US nuclear industry has had a near flawless safety record.
But, here’s what’s important to remember, there is always risk and then there is controlled risk.
And that is what the NRC is all about.
Thank you for giving me this time.”