Nuclear Firms see Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel as a Money Making Proposition
For years spent nuclear fuel has been pilloried as a “waste” on the assumption that once it has been used, it is done, once and forever. The only thing left to do is to find someplace safe to dispose of it. That “place” was going to be Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
But US Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) made a deal in 2008 with then candidate Barack Obama. In return for delivering Nevada’s votes for Obama’s race to the white house, once in office, now President Obama would not pursue an license to open the site.
Obama kept his promise unceremoniously booting out then NRC Chairman Dale Klein, an experienced and apolitical technocrat, and installing Gregory Jaczko, a political aide to Senator Reid who had no nuclear industry experience
Meanwhile, the Department of Energy paid out tens of millions in penalties to US nuclear utilities for not taking the spent fuel off their hands which was promised to them on the assumption that Yucca Mountain would be complete. So, all that spent fuel, some 70,000 tonnes of it, is still sitting at the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors waiting for a new home.
Two interim spent fuel sites, no waiting
Two nuclear industry firms have strong ideas about making money by creating interim storage sites in the remote desert southwest. Both sites are sparsely populated, bone dry, and seismically stable. Local support is strong for both sites, which are within spitting distance of each other, more or less being 54 miles apart.
One proposal, by Holtec, which manufactures the dry casks used to store spent nuclear fuel, has the goal of creating consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) at a 1,000 acre site located between Hobbs and Carsbad, NM. (Holtec briefing)
The other proposal, by French nuclear energy giant Areva, in partnership with NAC International, are seeking to develop a CISF in Andrews, TX, as part of a 14,000 acre LLW disposal site operated by Waste Control Specialists (WCS). The firm is also a participant in the second proposal. (Areva briefing)
Licenses to be sought from the NRC