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Nuclear Energy


Consolidated Nuclear Waste-Holding Facilities

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued (May 9) a license to Holtec International to build and operate an interim storage facility in New Mexico. In 2022, the NRC had published a final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the then-proposed temporary holding facility in Lee County, New Mexico. At that time, NRC staff recommended licensing the facility.

New Mexico enacted a state-level conditional ban on the facility in March (2023), however. Under New Mexico's law, the ban could be lifted if the state approves the facility and the federal government adopts a permanent underground storage site for nuclear waste. It is not clear, however, that a state’s law can overtake the Federally-approved license tied to Federal laws.

The United States currently has no permanent disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel, or other highly radioactive waste. Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, was supposed to be such a facility, but licensing and design work for the proposed Yucca Mountain repository was halted under the Obama Administration. Nevada opposed it at the time, and continues to oppose the project now.

In 2021, the NRC approved a separate license for a different interim nuclear waste-holding facility in Andrews, Texas. The company that owns the facility -- Interim Storage Partners LLC -- said it hopes to eventually expand the facility during seven additional phases. Texas, however, challenged the initial NRC license in Federal courts arguing that the NRC lacks specific authority for the project from Congress. Depending on the outcome of that case, the matter could be elevated to higher courts, which could continue to delay the project’s start.

(updated: 5-10-23)


TerraPower Demonstration - Delayed

TerraPower announced (December 16) that it believes it will see at least a two-year delay in its advanced reactor demonstration plant because the only fuel source for the planned facility is in Russia. The facility is planning to use high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU.

The future of nuclear power is in smaller, lower cost designs, and this type of fuel facilitates providing more power in a smaller footprint. And, the United States does not currently have uranium enrichment capacity to produce enough for commercial purposes. The company is seeking alternative sourcing of the fuel, and there is also some interest in the Federal Government developing and/or subsidizing the fuel’s production.

TerraPower announced the $4 billion planned facility in November 2021, to be built in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in a cost-sharing arrangement with the Federal Government. The facility will use sodium as a cooling agent instead of water, reducing explosion risk and waste without the need for outside energy sources for cooling, all in a reduced physical footprint. TerraPower was co-founded by Bill Gates.

(posted: 12-16-22)


Last CA Nuclear Power Plant Extension

California enacted a law to extend the life of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant for five years past its current closure date of 2025. The Diablo Plant, which went online in 1985, is currently the single largest power source for the state producing about 18K of gigawatt hours of electricity annually or about 9% of the State’s total power generation.

The state had expected to be farther along on newer sources of energy generation (i.e., wind and solar) to facilitate the plant’s closure by 2025. Governor Newsom sought a ten year extension, and there still are calls to keep nuclear power generation at the plant going past the new closure deadline of 2030 given the emphasis shift to solar and wind power and needed reliability of the power grid.

Future generation nuclear power could be considered, but at this time there does not seem to be adequate long-term support in the state for this source of power. Nuclear power generation in California has long been controversial for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the close proximity of earthquake fault lines to Diablo Canyon and other past nuclear facilities.

(updated: 9-12-22)


Fusion Nuclear Energy Breakthrough

EUROFusion announced (February 9, 2022) that European researches have achieved a record in fusion energy generation -- 59 megajoules of sustained fusion energy, more than double the previous fusion energy record of 21.7 megajoules set previously by the same Joint European Torus (JET) device in 1997. The potential of fusion nuclear energy is critical because of the possible limitless supply of energy that could be generated without the waste of traditional fission nuclear energy.

Near-term successes such as this are important to the much more significant, world-wide nuclear fusion demonstration facility currently under construction in France – ITER. The first experiments of ITER are expected to begin in December 2025.

(updated: 2-10-22)


Infrastructure Act - Advanced Nuclear

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $2.6 billion in new funding over current resources for the Department of Energy's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

(updated: 2-2-22)


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Nuclear Energy Waste Facility - Texas
Nuclear Energy Waste Facility - Texas

This document reflects a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve the location of a new nuclear waste-holding facility in Andrews, Texas.

Status: the facility was approved September 13, 2021.


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