Holtec Applies For Permit To Store San Onofre's Nuclear Waste In New Mexico

Thursday, May 11, 2017
By Alison St John
Credit: Google Earth
Above: Google Earth graphic showing new location of nuclear waste storage site at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant (bottom left corner).

The nuclear waste being stored at San Onofre may eventually move to New Mexico. Southern California Edison’s Community Engagement Panel meets Thursday night in Laguna Hills to focus on the latest developments in interim storage for nuclear waste.

Joy Russell is with Holtec International, the company preparing to store San Onofre’s spent nuclear fuel rods in vertical steel canisters embedded in concrete. The site is next to the now-shuttered power plant, approximately 100 feet from the ocean.

Russell said the storage system, called HI-STORM UMAX, is already licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She said Holtec has applied to the NRC for site-specific permits to use the same system at an interim storage location of about 1,000 acres in New Mexico.

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“Holtec’s intent is that the HI-STORM UMAX is designed and will be licensed to accommodate all canisters containing spent nuclear fuel of any type in use in the United States,” Russell said.

Congress is considering interim storage for nuclear waste, since no long-term storage has been indentified. A site under development at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was defunded in 2011.

“This site in New Mexico is temporary,” Russell said, “and then when Yucca Mountain is open, then it’s removed to Yucca Mountain or whatever other place the United States government has for a final disposition.”

Russell said the interim storage site has strong state and local support. She said the governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, has written to the U.S. Energy Secretary to endorse the plan.

Russell said Holtec is partnering on the interim storage project with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance in New Mexico. Edlow International, a company that has been transporting nuclear components for 50 years, would transport the waste, though Russell said a transportation route has not been negotiated.

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Nuclear sites all over the country are waiting for Congress to approve interim storage. It could take years. There will likely not be enough space in the site in New Mexico to accept all the nuclear waste waiting for alternative storage.

Russell said Holtec has not yet contracted with Southern California Edison to take San Onofre’s nuclear waste to New Mexico if Congress approves interim storage as an option, and if all the necessary environmental reviews and permits are granted.

Holtec's chief nuclear officer, Pierre Oneid, will be at Thursday's Community Engagement Panel meeting at 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Laguna Hills Community Center, 25555 Alicia Parkway, Laguna Hills, CA 92653.