Honorable Senator Lisa Murkowski,
I am writing this email/letter to ask you for your support for two nuclear projects that I have been following for several years now: Holtec Hi-Store CISF project in New Mexico and Elysium Industries Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor (MCSFR).
First, a little background about who I am and why I’m writing you this letter. I am a senior citizen living in Roswell, New Mexico. After 35 years in the IT industry and 15 years flipping houses, I retired from working for pay. Within a couple of weeks, my wife ask me to find a hobby to keep me busy and stop driving her crazy.
I looked around on the internet and found a class from the University of Pittsburgh on Nuclear Science and Technology. From the very first hours of that class I was hooked on nuclear. For the last ten years I have read everything I could find on the internet about all topics related to nuclear and radiation beginning with Madame Currie to the Manhattan Project to most recently the spent nuclear fuel issues of storage. I have met some very smart people on the internet, both domestically and internationally. I even developed a blog site to express what I have learned and I write a weekly newspaper column to share and educate the community about the safety of radiation and the myths of nuclear.
Recently, the NRC conducted a series of scoping meetings with the citizens of New Mexico regarding Docket ID: NRC-2018-0052 – Holtec International HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility Project. I am aware of your involvement with the initial beginning of this interim storage concept for spent nuclear fuel from our commercial nuclear power plants. I attended one of those scoping meetings and was embarrassed by the conduct and the misinformation that was being spread about nuclear based on fear and myths that were created during the 1960’s. No one spoke about the advances of storage technology in the last 30 years except the Holtec representative and one brave college student majoring in Nuclear Physics.
I have written 10 separate comments on NRC.com for docket NRC-2018-0052 and each one discusses a different aspect of the storage proposal. After reading the 121 comments as of 6/9/2018, all but 13 comments were against the project. Most of those comments were redundant sound bites that someone was passing around. I am sure you know the routine from other controversial issues. I am sure the NRC looks at the content of the comment and not the number submitted. I personally find that the number of comments and the number of people attending the 5 NRC scoping meetings were lacking support for or against the propose storage site. It appears to me that the general public is just too busy with their lives to be concerned.
There are three people in New Mexico that I am concerned about; Senator Tom Udall, Senator Martin Heinrich and Congresswomen Michelle Lujan-Grisham, who have all stated that they would support the Holtec project in New Mexico if there were a permanent repository somewhere else, referring to Yucca Mountain. I suspect that Michelle will be our next Governor in 2019 unless the Democrats don’t show up to vote (highly unlikely). This will present a serious problem for the implementation of the Holtec proposed interim solution in New Mexico. Rep. Steve Pearce is an unconditional supporter of the Holtec Project. We need the next Governor to support this project.
This is where I and the State of New Mexico, as well as the rest of the US, needs your immediate help. Both New Mexico Senators and Congresswomen Michelle Lujan-Grisham need to be convinced that this Holtec project is good (and needed) for New Mexico without the requirement to also have Yucca Mountain or some equivalent. Frankly, a deep repository is not needed anymore because above ground storage technology has superseded the outdated notion that spent nuclear fuel has to be buried for thousands of years.
I don’t need to explain the Holtec Technology because it is completely and thoroughly documented on their web site: https://holtecinternational.com/ . With thirty years of experience around the world, they have plenty of references about the safety of their storage solution. Unfortunately, there are a lot of political figures in New Mexico that haven’t taken the time to learn about the details of the Holtec technology. The same can be said for the common citizen of New Mexico but that would be expected. At this time Holtec is spending their own money to fund the EIS and the actual construction of the site. They are not asking for tax breaks like every other company that thinks about coming to New Mexico. Facebook is a good example of a company that didn’t need a tax break but New Mexico gave it to them anyway.
I already mentioned that spent nuclear fuel does not need long term storage and 300 years would be the maximum for a Holtec neutron absorbing canister inside a Holtec cask above ground or sub-surface. There is also technology that can reduce that time period down to only 100 years. That would be with a fast spectrum molten salt reactor. There are several in development by different companies here in the US and overseas. All of them have the same criteria of walk away safe and no waste or proliferation. I have studied many of the various designs, including Caroline Cochran and Jacob DeWitte of Oklo with their natural reactor (similar to Kilopower space reactor from Los Alamos Labs). It appear that Oklo has your ear about a small advanced reactor for the Alaskan frontier.
In the lower 48 states there needs to be a slightly different solution. My personal favorite today is the Elysium Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor (MCSFR) and its state-of-the-art design. Elysium’s technology is unique as it can provide base-load and clean power while addressing the current issues in the nuclear power industry. Based on demonstrated technology in the 1960s, Elysium has adapted and improved the molten salt reactor design for commercial deployment. The Elysium reactor has the ability to consume spent nuclear fuel, depleted uranium and weapons grade plutonium, transforming it into industrial heat and electricity within its single, factory built, central reactor core that can be scalable from 400 MW up to 1000 MW. http://www.elysiumindustries.com/technology/
As an experience Senator you know there is always a gotcha. In the case of the MCSFR it would take 400 years to ‘burn up’ just the spent nuclear fuel in storage today if all 99 US reactors, every coal/oil power plant, every natural gas utility furnace, every solar panel farm, every wind turbine farm and every hydroelectric dam were replaced with an equivalent sized MW MCSFR. What that means is, there is no such thing as a 40 year interim storage facility. I understand that is the standard starting duration from the NRC for nuclear power plant licenses with probable extensions, but I think it would be more believable to let the public know how long some of the spent nuclear fuel will be in an interim storage facility. The Yucca Mountain project is no longer realistic and the State of Nevada does not want it, nor did they ever want it.
One other titbit of technological information about the Holtec system is available inside the canister – 190C decay heat. When the fuel rods are removed from the reactor core they are very hot and radioactive. Within weeks that heat and radioactivity is substantially reduced in cooling pools and within five years the fuel rods are ready to ship to interim storage. Holtec has already designed and patented a heat transfer attachment to transfer the decay heat to one or more Stirling engines for the purpose of generating electricity or water desalination.
Water is very critical in New Mexico. The O&G industry needs a lot of water and they produce a lot of waste water from their fracking process. This waste water can be cheaply purified into potable water for the next well to be drilled and fracked. New Mexico also has a lot of saline water under the Tularosa Basin that could be desalinated by using nuclear decay heat or a small modnuclear reactor that Holtec has in their technology portfolio. Even an Oklo system would work here. Of course, my personal preference would be a molten salt reactor – MCSFR.
In your recent op-ed, you mentioned the need for the government to build a testing environment for advanced reactors. I am assuming the National Labs. I would personally recommend that this test environment be based on molten salt solutions. What I fear though is what always happens to big government projects – they get bigger and take forever. The non-molten salt solutions are already mature technology and really don’t need a testing facility. What they need is a little help getting them to market.
And lastly, we need a NRC that can respond faster. As you stated in your op-ed, other industrial nations are passing us by when we were the ones who started this whole industry with ‘Atoms for Peace’. It is time to take the leadership position again, with the world’s first interim spent nuclear fuel facility that can last long term and eliminate the unused fuel in fast spectrum molten salt reactors, including fission products and actinides. Again, the Elysium MCSFR system is a very viable solution.
Retired, but not tired.