Letter to Lisa Murkowski:

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.

Thank you,
Martin Kral
Retired, but not tired.


How to resolve the New Mexico water issue:

Access to fresh water is an increasingly critical national and international issue. Demand for fresh water in many regions of the world has already outstripped supply. Saline and brackish waters constitute over 97 percent of the water in the world. Supplementing fresh water supplies through cost effective “revolutionary” desalination technologies could provide significant relief to the limited fresh water resources in many parts of the world.

A federal partnership between Sandia National Laboratories and the Bureau of Reclamation was established by Congress in 2001 to evaluate and coordinate the development of a brackish ground water desalination research facility in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. A site in the southwest part of Alamogordo, New Mexico near the intersections of US Highway 70 to Las Cruces and US Highway 54 to El Paso was proposed for the research facility.

September 2017 marked the 10th year of operations at Reclamation’s Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility (BGNDRF) in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico. So, in the last 10 years, what has this institution accomplished? If you look out over the Tularosa Basin where the most brackish water in the state is located, there are no desalination plants to be had. What the facility actually does is have contest with cash prices for individuals or groups to come up with design and demonstration models for unique desalination ideas.

Contests are great ways to encourage individuals to be creative and sometimes think out of the box. But there are already several establish ways to desalinate saline water that are commercially successful already. One method is distillation by boiling the water to create steam and capture that steam as clean portable water, or basically a still. Other methods are available but these current technological processes must be done on a large scale to be useful to large populations, and the current processes are expensive, energy-intensive, and involve large-scale facilities.

So why don’t we desalinate more to alleviate shortages and growing water conflicts in New Mexico? The problem is that the desalination of water requires a lot of energy. Salt dissolves very easily in water, forming strong chemical bonds, and those bonds are difficult to break. Energy and the technology to desalinate water are both expensive, and this means that desalinating water on a commercial level can be pretty costly.

Energy, without question is one of the biggest costs whether it is coastal desalination or inland desalination. Another concern of the two primary locations is what you do with the salt waste. There’s that word again, waste. It seems like every man made product or process creates a waste stream that has to be dealt with. The hydrological cycle is used by nature to produce rain which is the main source of fresh water on earth. All available man-made distillation systems are a duplication on a small scale of this natural process.

Well, here we are, back to discussing energy again. The commercial desalination process requires a lot of heat. That heat can come from electricity, natural gas, nuclear fission or nuclear decay. The trendy approach for electricity could come from solar panels except the desalination process requires 24x7x365 heat. Renewable technologies are on a fool’s errand trying to obtain useful power from diluted sources of energy. What is needed is a highly dense source of stored energy like NG and nuclear provides all day and night, year around, regardless of climatic conditions.

Natural gas (NG) is the primary fuel source for desalination plants around the world. However, the cost to desalinate is controlled by the ebb and flow of O&G prices. Today, the prices are attractive, but tomorrow may be a different story. There is no cost fluctuation with nuclear energy. The cost of nuclear fuel is extremely cheap and very little is needed to power a nuclear power plant (NPP). Cost for nuclear energy is very consistent and budgets can be planned around that fact. New Mexico does not have a commercial NPP, so NG would be the natural choice, that is, unless there is actually another choice.

Nuclear decay from the spent nuclear fuel (SNF) inside a Holtec canister reaches a high temperature of 190C or 347F. That is more than enough primary heat to distill water, with secondary heat to generate electricity to power a facility itself. Holtec has already applied for a license for a heat transfer device to extract heat from the decay activity inside a Holtec canister that sets inside a Holtec cask at a Holtec interim storage facility.

This nuclear decay could provide a heat source for a desalination/purification plant next to the interim storage facility to accept the waste water from the O&G fracking process to recycle and reuse as clean portable water. So how would that help the Tularosa Basin? It won’t because it is too far away. A walk-away safe small modular reactor (SMR) power plant in the Tularosa Basin would be the most practical solution if everyone could get past the unwarranted fear of radiation folklore. The lower Rio Grande in New Mexico really needs more potable water for crops, industry and Texas.

The inconvenient reality of renewable energy:

In a 5/25/2018 article, the Roswell Daily Record reported that 30 percent of the state’s electricity came from renewable energy during the first two months of this year. Gov. Martinez’s office announced that was the first time in the state’s history where renewable sources generated more electricity than fossil fuels. That statement makes no sense to me. Think about it. That means that 70 percent came from non-renewable sources. What would that be?

Nuclear provides ~23 percent from Palo Verde in AZ through PNM and another ~10 percent from MN through XCEL, neither of which are state generated sources. That means ~40 percent still came from fossil fuels. Remember, when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, fossil fuels and nuclear are there to provide base load electricity.

Renewable wind and solar have been the darlings of the news media and various governments around the world for the last 15 years now. I use to always reference Germany for comparison data, both good and bad results about their experiment called Energiewende. Now I only have to reference California which followed Germany’s energy path.

I just finished reading a disturbing report series from Environmental Progress, an NGO think tank based out of Berkeley, CA that does not shine a very bright light for the future of wind and solar in that state. The report was very detailed and done in several parts with their titles pretty much explaining the direr situation with future electricity that is building up in CA.

Report #1: California’s Solar Roof Law will Raise Housing and Energy Prices but Do Little to Reduce Emissions – The primary purpose of renewable energy is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG), global warming, climate change and most recently environmental racism. But at what cost? From 2011 to 2017, California’s electricity rates increased five times more than they did in the rest of the US.

Report #2: Solar and Wind Lock-In Fossil Fuels, And That Makes Saving The Climate Harder and More Expensive – There is an actual marriage between renewable and natural gas. On a sunny and winding summer day around noon, NG and nuclear energy plants would be temporarily cut back or shut down until the wind stops and the sun sets, then they are churning out electricity requirements again.

Report #3: If Renewables Are So Great For The Environment, Why Do They Keep Destroying It? – Renewable wind and solar farms require massive amount of land and air space and as they increase in size and locations, more of the biota (animal kingdom) is destroyed. Solar needs 1,600 tons of steel per MW, wind energy needs over 400 tons of steel, while gas and nuclear need only 4 and 40 tons, respectively.

Report #4: If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste? – This report didn’t state this but renewable produces 300 times (ref: Thorium Energy Alliance) more non-recycled waste that could end up in landfills, than nuclear. Nuclear waste is 100 percent stored in a controlled and secured cask infrastructure for future use in advanced molten salt fast reactors with no waste stream. Nuclear is the only energy industry that has taken full responsibly for its complete waste stream.

You can find each report online at Forbes web site by author Michael Shellenberger at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/#35b0d24b1b8a

Given how large the ecological impact of solar and wind farms has been, it’s important to acknowledge that solar and wind only constitute 1.3 and 6.3 percent of electricity in the U.S., and 1.3 and 3.9 percent of electricity globally. And now it is losing some of its luster.

With the primary election over, we know our choices for Governor. When it comes to the state’s energy policies, these two candidates are definitely yin and yang.

Lujan-Grisham campaigned for more renewable, “I want to move us to a renewable portfolio that gets us to a 50 percent renewable standard by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040. I want to have New Mexico join the Paris Climate Accord.” This will never happen without nuclear power plants to generate clean electricity to grow our industries with desalinated potable water from the brine aquifer in the Tularosa Basin (more about this in next week’s article).

The other choice is Pearce and he can be summed up as O&G. One other energy policy is his stated unconditional support for the Holtec HI-STORE CISF project. Lujan-Grisham said that she would support if Yucca Mountain were finish for long term SNF storage. Yucca Mountain will never happen so you now know her position on Holtec.

Nuclear cask transport is safe and secure:

The proposed Holtec HI-STORE CIS will have all its spent nuclear fuel (SNF) delivered on the BNSF line between Clovis and Carlsbad. A special ‘unit train’ with a 450,000 pound locomotive pulling a 330,000 pound transport cask on a rail car with 12 axils, to properly distribute the weight, will travel through Roswell at a top speed of ‘barely creeping along’. No one will even know the train is passing through except for those blaring whistles at each roadway crossing and of course, you live right next to the railroad tracks.

This unit train is not unique for the HI-STORE CIS facility because it has been in use for the last 30 years hauling 1,300 civilian SNF shipments around the U.S from one nuclear power plant to another for storage and 850 military SNF shipments from the east and west coast Naval shipyards to Idaho. When maintenance is conducted on their submarines and aircraft carriers nuclear power reactors, the SNF is transported to the Naval Nuclear Laboratory in Idaho. There has never been an incident that has ever caused a leak – zero leakage from a transport cask. There is a reason for this outstanding safety infrastructure?

Since the 1980’s, Sandia Labs in New Mexico has been conducting test on containers that will carry and store radioactive materials. Researchers from Albuquerque’s Sandia National Laboratories spent eight months last year testing how safe transporting the highly radioactive fuel would be. The testing included researchers from Spain, South Korea and the Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories. It involved shipping a cask laden with mock spent nuclear fuel assemblies by truck, ship and train nearly 15,000 miles. The assemblies were fitted with accelerometers and strain gauges to measure their movement.

The shipment was assembled in Spain, barged to Belgium, shipped across the Atlantic where it was then loaded onto a 12-axle train car and transported 2,000 miles west to the Transportation Technology Center Inc., near Pueblo, Colorado. There it underwent more rigorous testing on its 50 miles of test track. “Nothing even approaching being broken or damaged at all,” said Sylvia Saltzstein, manager of Sandia’s transportation projects. Saltzstein said the enormous weight of the cask did not present a concern for U.S. railroads, something critics of a possible interim storage site have mentioned as a possible roadblock transporting to southeastern New Mexico.

Sandia conducted tests in the 1980s on how the casks responded in catastrophic instances, like being involved in a road or rail accident. There are YouTube videos online with the results of both a train crash and a missile launched at the canisters/cask being used to transfer and store SNF. “We know the containers can withstand normal conditions of transport and accidents,” Saltzstein said. “We were curious what happens to the fuel.”

There are basically 3 layers of protection of the SNF during transport; 1) the zirconium metal rod containing the solid ceramic fuel pellets, then 2) the canister itself that holds the fuel rods, and then the shipping cask which has a 15 inch wall of steel and lead that weighs 250,000 pounds. The 3 layers of protection assure that no radioactive constituents can leave the cask even under the most horrendous conditions one can think.

For anyone who is familiar with the dairy farms here in Chaves County, you will know that when the milk is extracted from the cow it never touches air from the mechanical milk sucking apparatus to the transport trucks to the silos at Leprino Cheese Plant where it is eventually processed. That is exactly how the SNF from the nuclear power plants around the US is transferred. It never touches the atmosphere.

When fuel rods are scheduled to be replaced, the actual transfer of rods from the reactor core to the cooling pool and eventually to a storage canister is done completely under water which is a natural radiation barrier. The canisters are then removed from the pool and inserted into a dry cask for long term storage and placed on a concrete pad near the nuclear power plant where they have been accumulating for the last 30 years.

These cask are engineered with a 100 year specification requirement that could last up to 300 years, at which time the SNF is nearly benign.  By that time, the last of the SNF will probably be used in a molten chloride salt fast reactor generating heat and electricity for the industrial world.

Speaking of nuclear reactors, Holtec is also in the business of building walk-away safe small modular reactors. Their business model touches all aspects of the nuclear industry and are the most successful at it around the world. The SMR-160 is well known among all the nuclear research companies who are designing and building the next generation of nuclear technology. Like the car industry and the airplane industry and even the natural gas industry, every new reactor design has eliminated the safety concerns of the past and improved energy production to be the safest and cleanest source in the world.

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.

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.