We are pleased to announce that the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) has issued a draft environmental impact statement for Holtec International’s proposed consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) called HI-STORE CISF in southeastern New Mexico (link to the document is here). The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) includes the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude the NRC from issuing a license for environmental reasons.  The NRC staff recommendation of “issuance of an NRC license to Holtec to construct and operate a CISF for SNF” is based on its review of Holtec’s license application, consultation with Federal, State, Tribal, and local agencies, input from other stakeholders, independent consultation with BLM staff, and its environmental review.

“The NRC’s draft EIS validates our technical position that our proposed subterranean fuel storage facility entails no adverse consequences to the environment or to other enterprises such as oil and gas, ranching and farming operating in the area.  Our stakeholders should know that our HI-STORE underground storage system in New Mexico has the three coveted characteristics, namely readily retrievable canisters to enable at-will relocation, extreme resistance to terror and hurricanes, and a geologically stable terrain that precludes the incidence of earthquakes. We believe, among other economic benefits to the host community, that our program to utilize the waste heat from the stored canisters to purify waste water from fracking demonstrates our commitment to the community and the environment,” said Holtec’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kris Singh. 

Holtec International and its partner, the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) launched the initiative of establishing the autonomous consolidated interim storage facility in southeastern New Mexico on land owned by ELEA in 2015 when ELEA selected Holtec and the underground storage configuration known as HI-STORM UMAX. The HI-STORE CISF, located approximately 12 miles from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) (see map), will provide a significant step on the path to the Federal Government’s long-standing obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel by providing a safe, secure, temporary, retrievable, and centralized facility for storage of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until such time that a permanent solution is available.

Proposed Location of the Holtec / ELEA Underground HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility

Holtec submitted its license application to the NRC on March 31, 2017. The NRC concluded their acceptance review of the application on February 28, 2018 paving the way for an in-depth safety evaluation. The initial application for the HI-STORE CISF includes storage of up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial used fuel (500 canisters) with future amendments for up to a total of 10,000 storage canisters. The United States currently has more than 80,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel in storage and the inventory grows at the rate of 2,000 metric-tons per year. HI-STORE CISF is being licensed using Holtec’s own funds with the enthusiastic support of the nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as ELEA.

“The NRC is a very strong and technical regulator, and the board is excited for Holtec in accomplishing this major step in the licensing process,” said John Heaton, Chair of ELEA. “Holtec’s diligence and commitment to this much needed project has made them an extraordinary partner, and the NRC’s environmental report reaffirms that the HI-STORE CISF will have a positive economic impact on our area’s economy bringing several hundred jobs and economic growth.”

The HI-STORE CISF will utilize Holtec’s subterranean storage system HI-STORM UMAX, which is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility. Already in use at two sites in the U.S., the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel 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 CISF from any location. 

HI-STORE CISF is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities. Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.  The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation. 

A Rendering of the HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility

The NRC is seeking public comments on the draft environmental impact statement and is expected to announce public meetings in the next few weeks. Holtec and ELEA expect the NRC to decide on the license for HI-STORE CISF in 2021; construction could start soon after the NRC license is granted. 

To learn more about HI-STORE CISF, visit http://www.historecisf.com.