By Adrian Monty
The radioactive waste-handling conglomerate Holtec International is covering all the bases in its pursuit of a permanent revenue source. It’s not just close to winning a license to build a ground-level dump in southeast New Mexico for highly radioactive waste fuel known as a “consolidated interim storage facility.” The shrewd operators have also purchased a few closed nuclear reactors, guaranteeing Holtec’s own radioactive waste stream — potentially moving nation-wide along highways, railroads, and waterways, as if the storage site had already been approved. Holtec now owns Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Pilgrim in Massachusetts, Indian Point in New York, and both the Palisades and Big Rock Point nuclear stations in Michigan. The NRC has recommended the issuance of a license, after considering Holtec’s Environmental Impact Statement for the project. Of course, the EIS reportedly examined various land use, geologic, public health, socioeconomic, and environmental justice impacts of the plan, and declared all of them “small.” Although the current application is limited, if license amendments are approved later the site could store up to 173,600 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste from the country’s power reactors. The proposed 40-year project life implies that a “permanent” dump site will be found. However, critics say the site will likely become de facto permanent, because there are no plans for a replacement location. Final license approval is expected in early 2023, although the company still faces legal challenges and needs additional permits for construction and transportation of waste across the country.