We are pleased to announce the adoption of a Memorandum of Agreement by Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC to establish an underground consolidated interim storage facility in southeastern New Mexico, approximately 12 miles from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) facility (see map below). ELEA, a limited liability company owned by the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, and Eddy County and Lea County, has successfully secured the support of the state of New Mexico to build a state-of-the-art interim storage facility on their industrial land.
Opening the press conference held yesterday at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM, ELEA Board Chairman, John Heaton, provided opening remarks stating, “This is really a big day for us. We have been working on this for a number of years so we are really excited about it. We have as a group visited manufacturers, we’ve met with the NRC, we’ve met with folks at NEI, and other scientific bodies across the country vetting this idea of an interim storage facility and what it meant in terms of safety. Clearly it was the number one issue for us in our communities and in our counties. And after doing that vetting we became convinced that this is an extraordinarily safe process that needs to occur in this country and we think that Holtec is the best of the best and we are pleased that they would take this opportunity to join us in Southeastern New Mexico to put in a facility.”
The depth of the local support was evident from the community and state leadership present at the press conference (see photo below). City of Hobbs, Mayor Sam Cobb, addressed the room stating, “We don’t enter into this lightly. We have a very educated citizenry, our public officials are well educated as it relates to the nuclear fuel cycle, and we know that our site that we have characterized half way between Hobbs and Carlsbad, 35 miles from each community, is the best site in this country. It has the right geography and it has the right geology to implement the system that Holtec has designed. Mayor Cobb continued, “Holtec has the best system in the world, their design is the safest, they have the most expertise of all of the partners that we talked to and we are very excited about them being part of [this]. On behalf of the city of Hobbs, we are proud to move forward with Holtec, have you as our partner as well as our ELEA group, we think that this is going to create job opportunities for us, we think that this will create a revenue stream for our communities and the state of New Mexico that will be sustainable for a long time. We hope that these funds can be used to improve infrastructure throughout our communities and the state, improve our quality of life in our communities and the state and we look forward to getting this program moving forward.”
Praising the efforts of the Eddy and Lea counties, Senator Carroll H. Leavell, remarked, “I want to add my strong support for the Lea Eddy Alliance and for this project. I think that the Lea Eddy Alliance has done their homework and they have picked the best company in the Nation to handle a project of retrievable casks.”
Governor Susana Martinez has also expressed in a letter to the USDOE Secretary, Dr. Ernest Moniz, her support for the ELEA’s interest in finding a solution to the nation’s interim waste storage needs (presented in its entirety at the end of this issue).
According to the Agreement, Holtec will design, license, build and operate the storage facility, which will be an enlarged version of the HI-STORM UMAX (acronym for Underground MAXimum security) system being deployed at two nuclear plants in the United States. ELEA will contribute the extensive site characterization data in its possession from its archives and serve the critical role of continuing community outreach. Holtec’s President and CEO told the attendees at the press conference, “This Agreement translates our federal government’s aspirations into a concrete reality. The ELEA consolidated storage facility will serve as a splendid example of a sound public policy rendered into physical reality by private initiative and government support. We will, subject to DOE’s support and engagement as contemplated by the Blue Ribbon Commission report and NRC’s expedited review of the license application, have this facility operational in four to five years. Make no mistake about it: with the used fuel challenge being overcome by the people of New Mexico who have stood at the forefront of fission since the inception of atomic power, today is a new day of hope and possibility for nuclear energy in our country.”
John Heaton added, “The Eddy-Lea Alliance has diligently vetted the safety of Interim Storage and the companies doing it. We are very excited about the development of this partnership with Holtec International, who we believe has the premier interim storage system in the world. We are very proud of the fact that Holtec and us will be working together to solve what has become one of the most perplexing problems in the U.S. This is not the first time the people of New Mexico have stepped up to solve our country’s difficult problems. There is an enormous amount of work ahead of us in terms of educating the people of New Mexico about interim storage, developing agreements with the state, and, of course, the NRC licensing process. We both intend to address the challenges ahead of us with steadfastness, courage and resolve.”
The air of optimism was best summarized by Alex Flint, Senior Vice President, Governmental Affairs, Nuclear Energy Institute, who told the Albuquerque community that it has a special history and understanding for meeting so significant a policy challenge.
“The nuclear industry has tremendous respect for the political leaders in New Mexico, who for years have been at the forefront of understanding nuclear issues. Where others see challenges, they see opportunities. That has been New Mexico’s history since the beginning of the nuclear era. This is one more example of New Mexicans who see an opportunity to lead by creating a valuable business.
The United States needs a sound used fuel program. That program should include a permanent geologic repository and consolidated storage, developed concurrently.”
The storage facility, shown in the illustration below, will be designed for a 100 year service life with unfettered capability to retrieve and move the canisters at any time during the facilities service life. There is no technical limit on the facility’s storage capacity which will be established by the need. As a point of reference, the size of the HI-STORM UMAX facility to store the entire storage capacity of the Yucca Mountain repository (75,000 metric tons) computes to merely 32 acres of land.
Licensed by the NRC under Docket Number 72-1040, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the United States and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal on-site storage facility. HI-STORM UMAX stores the canister containing the spent fuel or high level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a “security-friendly” storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) from any location and the closure lid is a massive steel weldment filled with concrete eliminating the storage contents as a target. The HI-STORM UMAX Interim Storage Facility will feature no aboveground structures for the transfer of loaded canisters. Nor will it require any utilities (water, compressed air, or electric power) for its operation; eliminating any elements of vulnerability to terrorism. The subterranean stored contents emit virtually zero radiation dose to the facility workers and surrounding environment. HI-STORM UMAX provides the nation a single dry storage system to store all of the nation’s used fuel and high-level waste in a below-grade, monitored, retrievable, interim storage facility that provides maximum protection against terrorism and natural disasters.
View the full press conference here: https://livestream.com/streamingnm/carlsbad
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