Hearing Denied re Proposed New Mexico Spent Fuel Storage Facility

On May 7, 2019, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) denied requests by several petitioners to hold an evidentiary hearing challenging Holtec International’s license application to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.  The NRC staff’s technical and environmental reviews of the license application will continue.

The board’s ruling is available on the NRC’s Electronic Hearing Docket on the agency website at https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/adjudicatory.html under Holtec International 72-1051.


In January 2019, the three-judge board held oral arguments in Albuquerque, New Mexico 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 that the nearly 50 contentions raised were not admissible for an evidentiary hearing.  The judges held that the contentions either were not relevant to the application or did not establish a genuine dispute with aspects of the application.

The NRC’s hearing process allows interested parties who might be affected by a proposed licensing action to challenge the application on technical (safety) or environmental grounds.  Most hearings are conducted by licensing boards appointed from the ASLB Panel – a group of administrative judges independent of the NRC staff.  Board rulings may be appealed to the Commission.


Holtec is a vendor of dry cask storage systems.  The company has proposed to store spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants at a facility in Lea County, which is located in the southeastern corner of New Mexico.  The license application for the HI-STORE CISF was submitted to the NRC on March 31, 2017.  The Commission accepted the application in February 2018 (U.S. NRC Docket No. 72-1051.)

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.

For additional information, please contact David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8205 or Erica Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0900 ext. 3920 or at e.grandrimo@holtec.com.

Public Meeting re Pilgrim Decommissioning Activities Report

On January 15, 2019, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff held a public meeting in Plymouth, Massachusetts to discuss a decommissioning roadmap report for the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.  Attendees were able to provide comments at the meeting.

Entergy, which owns the single-reactor Plymouth facility, submitted its Pilgrim Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) to the NRC on November 16, 2018.  Among other details, it describes the company’s plans to put the plant into SAFSTOR, or long-term storage, prior to beginning dismantlement work.

Holtec, which plans to acquire Pilgrim and decommission it in an expedited manner, has submitted its own PSDAR for the plant.  Since an application to transfer the plant’s NRC license from Entergy to Holtec remains under review, the report is currently being handled as a supplement to the application.

Pilgrim is scheduled to permanently cease operations by June 1, 2019.


On November 16, 2018, Entergy Corporation and Holtec International, through their affiliates, asked the NRC to approve the sale of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to Holtec after shutdown.  According to the associated press release, doing so would allow Holtec to complete decommissioning and site restoration decades sooner than if Entergy completed decommissioning.

The companies jointly filed a License Transfer Application, requesting approval for the transfer of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, as well as its Nuclear Decommissioning Trust Fund, to Holtec after the plant permanently shuts down by June 1, 2019.  They also made detailed separate filings that lay out the process each company would use to decommission the facility.

In order to facilitate a timely transaction closing by the end of 2019, the companies have asked the NRC to approve the application by May 31, 2019.  According to the press release, doing so will benefit the community, employees and other interested constituents.

Holtec’s filings describe the plan of its subsidiary, Holtec Decommissioning International, to complete the dismantling, decontamination and remediation of Pilgrim to NRC standards within eight years of license transfer (i.e., by the end of 2027) assuming timely regulatory approvals.  According to the press release, Holtec’s process will achieve site restoration decades sooner than if Entergy retained the plant while meeting all applicable local, state and federal regulations.

Holtec estimates total costs for decommissioning Pilgrim at $1.13 billion.  As of October 31, 2018, the balance in Pilgrim’s Decommissioning Trust Fund was $1.05 billion.

“Holtec’s technical expertise, innovations and industry-leading experience in spent fuel management and decommissioning enable it to do the work in a more cost-effective manner, with uncompromised safety and under rigorous NRC oversight,” states the press release.  “Over 100 nuclear plants rely on Holtec’s nuclear fuel storage technology, and the company is the world leader in spent nuclear fuel storage technology design and implementation.”

Holtec has contracted with Comprehensive Decommissioning International, LLC (CDI) to perform the decommissioning, including demolition and site cleanup.  CDI is a joint venture company of Holtec International and SNC-Lavalin.  According to the press release, “The decommissioning experience held by Holtec and SNC-Lavalin gives CDI more than half a century of managing complex projects in both the commercial and government nuclear sectors worldwide.”


The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station employs about 600 nuclear professionals and generates 680 megawatts of virtually carbon-free electricity, enough to power more than 600,000 homes.  Pilgrim began generating electricity in 1972.  Entergy purchased the plant in 1999 from Boston Edison.

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations.  Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 9,000 megawatts of nuclear power.  Entergy delivers electricity to 2.9 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.  Entergy has annual revenues of approximately $11 billion and more than 13,000 employees.

Holtec International is a privately held energy technology company with operation centers in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania in the United States.  Globally, Holtec International has operation centers in Brazil, Dubai, India, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.  Holtec’s principal business concentration is in the nuclear power industry.  Since the 1980s, Holtec has been densifying wet storage in nuclear plants’ spent fuel pools, which defers the need for and expense of alternative measures by as much as two decades.  Holtec has done this at over 110 reactor units in the United States and abroad.  Holtec also offers services regarding dry storage and transport of nuclear fuel.  Holtec is working to develop the world’s first below-ground CISF in New Mexico and a 160-Megawatt walk away safe small modular reactor, SMR-160.  The SMR-160 is developed to bring cost competitive carbon-free energy to all corners of the earth including water-challenged regions.  Holtec is also a major supplier of special-purpose pressure vessels and critical-service heat exchange equipment such as air-cooled condensers, steam generators, feedwater heaters and water-cooled condensers.  Virtually all products produced by Holtec are built in its three large manufacturing plants in the United States and one in India.

For additional information about the Pilgrim plant, please go to www.pilgrimpower.com.  Additional information about Entergy is available at www.entergy.com.  To learn more about Holtec International, please visit www.holtecinternational.com.  

The Pilgrim PSDAR that was submitted by Entergy is available on the NRC website at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1832/ML18320A034.pdf.  The PSDAR that was submitted by Holtec is also available at https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1832/ML18320A040.pdf.  The Federal Register notice regarding the submittal of public comments on the Pilgrim PDSAR is available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2018-12-21/pdf/2018-27724.pdf.

For additional information, please contact Diane Screnci at (610) 337-5330 or Neil Sheehan at (610) 337-5331.

Oral Arguments Held re Holtec Spent Fuel Storage Application

On January 23, 2019, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) heard oral arguments in Albuquerque, New Mexico on petitions to hold an adjudicatory hearing concerning an application by Holtec International to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in the state.

The arguments were held at the State Bar of New Mexico, which is located at 5121 Masthead St. NE in Albuquerque.

Project Overview

According to the license application, Holtec is seeking to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in commercial spent fuel in the Holtec International Storage Module Underground “MAXimum” Capacity (HI-STORM UMAX) Storage System for a 40-year license term.  The subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system has a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters.  The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities.  The NRC previously certified HI-STORM UMAX in Docket number 72-1040.

“Engineered over a decade ago and licensed by the NRC in 2015, HI-STORM UMAX is physically sized to store all of the used nuclear fuel produced in the U.S. and all canisters currently licensed in dry storage in the country making it a truly universal used fuel storage facility,” states Holtec.  “Already deployed at multiple nuclear power plants around the U.S. …, the HI-STORM UMAX stores the stainless steel canister containing the spent fuel or high-level waste entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CISF from any location.  HI-STORE CIS is envisioned to unify the storage of all different storage canisters (both vertically and horizontally stored) in one standardized HI-STORM UMAX cavity system simplifying operations and aging management activities.”

“Storing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel in the HI-STORM UMAX system is a temporary measure, as the stainless-steel canisters are easily retrievable and ready for transport pending the determination of a safe permanent solution for managing used nuclear materials.,” continues Holtec.  “The canisters are designed, qualified, and tested to survive and prevent the release of radioactive material under the most adverse accident scenarios postulated by NRC regulations for both storage and transportation.”

Holtec is using its own funds to support the licensing action.  According to Holtec, the project has “the enthusiastic support of nuclear-savvy communities in southeastern New Mexico incorporated as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), LLC.”  If the initial application is approved, Holtec plans to make supplemental submittals to incorporate the various canister types being used in the industry.

The Holtec application and other documents related to the NRC’s review are available on the NRC website at www.nrc.gov.


Holtec submitted its application on March 30, 2017.  The NRC formally docketed the application on February 28, 2018.  On March 30, 2018, NRC published a Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the scope of its environmental review.  (See 83 Federal Register 13,802 dated March 30, 2018.)  Comments were accepted through May 29, 2018.  (See LLW Notes, March/April 2018, pp. 16-18.)

On April 6, 2018, NRC published a separate notice about the public meetings.  (See 83 Federal Register 14,897 dated April 6, 2018.)  On July 18, 2017, NRC issued a press release announcing the opportunity for the public to request an adjudicatory hearing on Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Lea County, New Mexico.  (See LLW Notes, July/August 2018, pp. 16-18.)  A few days earlier, an announcement was published in the Federal Register that describes the requirements and procedures for filing a request for a hearing and petition to intervene.  (See 83 Federal Register 32,919 dated July 16, 2018.)  The deadline for submitting a request to the NRC was September 14, 2018.

The Federal Register notice announcing the opportunity to request a hearing on Holtec’s application is available online at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-07-16/pdf/2018-15079.pdf.

For additional information, please contact, please contact Erika Grandrimo of Holtec at (856) 797-0090 ext. 3920 or at e.grandrimo@holtec.com or David McIntyre of the NRC at (301) 415-8200.