US NRC Releases EIA for Holtec Interim Storage Facility

US-based Holtec International announced that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its HI-STORE Consolidated Intermediate Storage Facility (CISF) project. ) for used nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.

The final 736-page EIS includes NRC staff’s recommendation that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude NRC from issuing a permit for environmental reasons. The recommendation is based on a 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 NRC’s own environmental review. NRC’s review covered land use, transportation, geology and soils, surface and ground water, ecological resources such as threatened and endangered species, noise, historic resources and cultural, public and occupational health, environmental justice, socio-economics and other considerations.

The final EIA also confirms that there are no negative impacts on other businesses in the area, including oil and gas, livestock and agriculture. Designed with safety and environmental stewardship as primary considerations, the fully welded and hermetically sealed containers that will be safely stored at the facility are designed, qualified and tested to maintain their integrity and prevent the release of radioactive material into worst case accident scenarios. postulated by NRC regulations for storage and transportation.

Holtec International and its partner, the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) of New Mexico, launched the initiative to establish the self-contained CISF in southeastern New Mexico on a parcel of land owned by ELEA in 2015. ELEA selected Holtec and its underground HI-STORM UMAX fuel storage system after determining it was the safest technology for their community. Holtec claims that the HI-STORM UMAX underground storage system “provides an unconditionally safe and secure, non-permanent, easily retrievable, and centralized facility for the interim storage of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until a permanent solution is available”.

“We believe that the aggregation of spent fuel from 75 sites scattered across the country is both a national security imperative and an essential predicate for the rise of resurgent nuclear power to meet energy goals. our nation’s own,” said Holtec CEO Dr. Kris Singh.

The initial request for the HI-STORE CISF includes storage of up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent nuclear fuel (500 rounds) with future modifications for up to 10,000 storage rounds. The United States currently has more than 80,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel in stock, and the stockpiles are growing by 2,000 metric tons a year. HI-STORE CISF is authorized to use Holtec’s own funds with the support of Southeast New Mexico communities incorporated as ELEA.

The HI-STORM UMAX system is already in use at two sites in the United States. It stores stainless steel containers containing spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below ground, establishing a “safety-friendly” storage facility, providing a clear and unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location. what place. The HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all cartridges currently licensed for used nuclear fuel storage in the United States and all types of nuclear fuel currently in use. John Heaton, Vice President of ELEA, said the project will “diversify our economy, generate 350 jobs and potentially represent a $3 billion investment in our region”.

The NRC said Holtec initially proposes to store 500 containers containing approximately 8,680 metric tons of spent fuel in a first phase and eventually to store up to 10,000 containers in 19 additional phases. The containers would be transported by rail from operating, decommissioned and decommissioned U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.

The NRC released a draft EIS for public comment in March 2020 and the public comment period was extended to six months due to the COVID pandemic. During this period, NRC staff held six online public meetings to present the draft EIS and receive public comments.

Over 4,800 comment submissions with 3,718 individual comments were received and addressed in the final EIS.

“Publishing the final EIA completes the environmental portion of the NRC’s licensing review,” the NRC said. “Staff will make a clearance decision following the completion of their security assessment report, due in January 2023.

Image: Vision of the proposed HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel showing how the drums would be stored underground (photo courtesy of Holtec)

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