ActivePaper Archive Nuclear storage facility gets boost by NRC - Hobbs News Sun, 5/8/2019

Nuclear storage facility gets boost by NRC




The plan for an interim nuclear storage facility in western Lea County has gotten a big boost from the national government.

On Tuesday, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied requests by several petitioners to hold an evidentiary hearing challenging Holtec International’s license application to construct and operate the HI-STORE CISF (consolidated interim storage facility) for spent nuclear fuel about 30 miles west of Hobbs.

The three-judge board held oral arguments in Albuquerque on Jan. 22-24, on the standing of the various petitioners and the admissibility of their proposed contentions under NRC regulations. While the judges agreed that some of the six petitioners met the qualifications for standing, they concluded the nearly 50 contentions raised were not admissible for an evidentiary hearing. The judges held the contentions either were not relevant to the application or did not establish a genuine dispute with aspects of the application.

Holtec International, a vendor of dry cask storage systems, is proposing a $5 billion long-term storage facility for spent nuclear fuel that could have a lifespan of 100 years. According to Holtec, the company is requesting an initial licensing life of 40 years for the facility.

“We thank the diligent efforts by the Holtec, and Pillsbury teams led by the veteran attorney Jay Silberg for this splendid outcome,” stated Joy Russell, Holtec’s senior vice president of business development and communications. “We also thank our ELEA partners (Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance) and the local community in New Mexico for their steadfast support and confidence in our technology’s innate safety implicit in this NRC ruling.”

According to Hobbs Mayor and ELEA Chairman Sam Cobb, ELEA is the landowner of the proposed site, which makes them partners with Holtec for the project. Holtec plans for the below-ground storage facility could employ some 150 workers.

“I think this decision speaks to the quality of the application and licensee of Holtec,” Cobb said. “It means they have put their plan together, their concept has merit and the NRC sees that. I think it speaks well for the agreement we have with them. We aren’t really partners other than they have an option to purchase the property from us. As far as working together to help them secure the license it’s certainly a good day for us, no doubt.”

According to the NRC, the hearing petitions were filed by Beyond Nuclear, the Sierra Club and the Fasken Land and Minerals and Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners, which were granted standing. Two other petitioners – a coalition of several different organizations and NAC International, a rival dry storage cask vendor – were denied standing. The standing of a sixth petitioner, the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, was not decided.

“This ‘interim’ storage facility could well become a permanent repository without the protections of a permanent repository,” Sierra Club attorney Wally Taylor said in response to Tuesday’s ruling. “Now it is up to the people and public officials in New Mexico to protect New Mexicans from this boondoggle.”

ELEA Vice Chairman John Heaton said Tuesday’s decision will allow Holtec to move forward with the licensing process and complete the environmental portion of the application process. It also allows the NRC to go forward with its draft of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Following another set of public hearings, hypothetically, a final EIS would be disclosed. If positive, Holtec could be in a position to obtain a license by late 2020 or 2021. Construction of the facility would take place and could begin receiving spent nuclear fuel by late 2021 or early 2022.

“I’m pretty excited about the fact that this went as smoothly as it did and that there were no findings of substance,” Heaton said. “That means we are on a good trajectory for the project.”