WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Nuclear Energy Institute Tuesday welcomed a consent-based approach in New Mexico to manage used nuclear fuel from U.S. commercial reactors. Holtec International announced a memorandum of agreement with two New Mexico counties to establish a consolidated interim storage facility in southeastern New Mexico.
The announcement took place in Albuquerque and included support from New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. Earlier this year, Texas-based Waste Control Specialists announced its intent to design and license an interim consolidated storage facility that could be used by the federal government to store commercial used nuclear fuel until a federal disposal facility becomes operational.
Holtec’s agreement with the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance in New Mexico will include the design, licensing, construction, and operation of an interim used fuel storage facility modeled on Holtec’s HI-STORM UMAX storage system, which stores high-level radioactive waste in steel and concrete containers below ground. The agreement would develop an interim site “to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the United States and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country.”
NEI Senior Vice President for Governmental Affairs Alex Flint told the Albuquerque community today 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.”
In articulating support for her state as a willing host site, Martinez, in an April 10 letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, said that, “There is a significant and growing national need for such an interim storage facility. Millions of taxpayer dollars are currently being spent on monitoring and oversight of spent fuel each year, and millions more are being spent on settlement payments related to waste disposition.”
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the total liability for the federal government for its failure to manage used nuclear fuel at $27.1 billion, including $4.5 billion already paid out of the U.S. Treasury’s Judgment Fund. This estimate assumes that the DOE begins accepting used nuclear fuel in 2021. The agency has contracts with energy companies to take uranium fuel from nuclear energy facilities for disposal.