We are pleased to announce that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued the final license to build and operate the HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) to Holtec International on the land provided by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), a regional economic development authority in Southeast New Mexico. This license is the culmination of an eight-year process to bring a safe, secure, temporary and retrievable private facility to store used nuclear fuel and high level waste to the Nation. The license envisions use of Holtec’s inherently safe below-ground storage system called the HI-STORM UMAX.
The HI-STORE facility is the first in the world to deploy a below-ground storage system for consolidated interim storage although several U.S. plants (notably Callaway and SONGS) have been using this technology accruing great benefits in terms of dramatically reduced radiation dose, ultimate protection from incident hazards (such as a crashing aircraft or airborne missiles) and its negligible environmental impact. The subterranean HI-STORM UMAX storage system is so environmentally unobtrusive that all industrial activities such as fracking, drilling, and potash mining in the area can continue without obstruction and, as stated in the final environmental impact study, construction of the proposed CISF would not have an effect on oil and gas operations regardless of drilling method.
It should be noted that Holtec has served as the dry storage technology provider for two other interim storage facilities in the past: the first for the Private Fuel Storage initiative in Skull Valley, Utah, which received the final license from the NRC in 2006, and the second for Ukraine’s National Nuclear Energy Generating Company, Energoatom, in Ukraine. The latter has been constructed and awaiting the cessation of russia’s aggression to begin operations.
The HI-STORE CISF fulfills America’s aspiration expressed in the Blue-Ribbon Commission’s report on America’s Nuclear Future (established by President Barack Obama), which envisages the establishment of one or more consolidated interim storage facilities, independent of the schedule for opening a repository. HI-STORE CISF will unify all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX system, simplifying operations and aging management activities. Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORE CISF will be a temporary measure, as the all-welded stainless-steel canisters are easily retrieved from the storage cavities and shipped to the repository or a reprocessing site.
“The licensing of HI-STORE CISF should be viewed as the triumph of private perseverance in the service of public purpose. America knows that the interim solution of the used fuel problem, ergo HI-STORE, is critical to sustain the rise of nuclear power. We thank the nuclear-savvy communities of the Southeast New Mexico region and their visionary leaders who have welcomed us to bring our technologies to create environmentally benign and well-paying jobs, and help diversify the region’s economy thus fostering a stable industrial base,” says Holtec’s President and CEO, Dr. Kris Singh.
The license for the initial phase of construction allows for 500 loaded used fuel canisters to be received, possessed, transferred and stored at the facility proposed in Lea County, New Mexico. Holtec’s expected contribution to the community in Southeast New Mexico includes additional economic development opportunities, including a state-of-the art manufacturing facility, a technology development center and a global workforce training center.
This final license follows the NRC’s July 2022 approval of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The final EIS notes the absence of any environmental impacts that would preclude a license for HI-STORE. The NRC’s recommendation was based on its review of Holtec’s license application; consultation with Federal, State, Tribal and local agencies; input from other stakeholders; independent consultation with the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management; and the Commission’s own environmental review, which included land use, transportation, geology and soils, surface and groundwater, ecological resources such as threatened and endangered species, noise, historical and cultural resources, public and occupational health, environmental justice, socioeconomics and other considerations.
The final EIS also confirmed that there are no adverse impacts to other enterprises in the area including oil and gas, potash, ranching, and farming. HI-STORE CISF is designed with safety and environmental stewardship as the overriding considerations. The strength-welded and hermetically closed canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to maintain their integrity and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.
Program Director for the HI-STORE CISF U.S. Navy Captain (retired) Ed Mayer stated, “Thanks to the local support, we have persevered for the past eight years to license HI-STORE in spite of variable enthusiasm from the State’s authorities. The project has the ability to allow Southeast New Mexico to diversify its economy, generate some 400 jobs, infusing ~$3 billion investment in the area. Holtec and ELEA are proud to have worked together to eliminate the most formidable barrier to the renaissance of nuclear energy that our country faces today.”
“Our heartfelt thanks go out to the dedicated NRC staff whose diligent and critical reviews of the license application and detailed interactions with our licensing team has resulted in a solid body of work that undergirds the regulatory basis for the license configured to safeguard public health and safety in full measure,” said Ms. Kim Manzione, Holtec’s Director of Licensing.
To learn more about HI-STORE CISF, visit http://www.historecisf.com.