A fabrication facility intended to support a nuclear waste storage facility proposed in southeast New Mexico would support at least 150 jobs in the region in addition to employment expected at the repository itself.
Holtec International, a nuclear technology company based in New Jersey, hoped to build a temporary facility to store high-level spent nuclear fuel rods near the border of Eddy and Lea counties on an interim basis while a permanent repository is developed.
Local supporters of the project, known as a consolidated interims storage facility (CISF), argued it could bring a strong economic benefit to the region through job creation and investment, while also providing a solution to the nation’s problem with nuclear waste.
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Presently, the waste sits mostly in cooling ponds at the generator sites which are frequently near large bodies of water or high-population areas.
If the project is approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission which is currently considering Holtec’s license application, the waste would come to New Mexico from multiple nuclear generator sites across the country, mostly on the east coast, shipped via rail in large steel casks.
The casks would transport the waste into large steel silos, which need to be fabricated near the site, said Program Director Ed Mayer, and New Mexico was the best place to do it.
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He said building the silos instate would be much more effective than constructing them closer to Holtec headquarters on the east coast and shipping to the site.
When the transportation casks holding the waste arrive in New Mexico, the waste could then be moved into the silos that would be capped with large concrete lids built close the site – saving on transportation, he said.
Concrete would also be poured around the silos, which would extend about 25 feet underground.
The silos stand up to 20 feet tall and weigh multiple tons. For the first phase of the project, currently under the NRC’s review, Holtec would build 500 such canisters.
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“They’re massive structures,” Mayer said. “It makes more sense to shop the raw materials to New Mexico.”
But the company is still deciding where to put the fabrication site, and what New Mexico community will get the added jobs.
While Carlsbad and Hobbs are prime candidates, Mayer said the company is also considering a location in Grants about 78 miles west of Albuquerque.
The location will require a rail line.
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But either way, the said Holtec intends to have as much economic impact associated with the project kept in its host state.
“It’s going to end up in New Mexico. Then it’s going to come down to what it’s going to cost. It will be a business decision,” Mayer said. “There are several parts of New Mexico that would want 150 jobs.”
And those jobs could last several years as the canisters are built based on need and has Holtec applies for and receives licenses for up to 20 more phases of the project – one about every two years.
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“It’s going to be decades if we continue to build,” Mayer said. “It’s important because New Mexico is making an investment in allowing us to build the facility. As a good neighbor, it’s important for us to give back that investment.
“This facility is going to solve a national problem. It’s important New Mexico gets as much benefit as they can.”
When operational, the fabrication site will operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week using three shifts of 50 workers.
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Those workers will likely be hired from the local community, Mayer said.
That kind of impact is why, he said, the project enjoys support from Eddy and Lea counties and both county seats in the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs.
State leaders have been more questioning, he said, because they are further from that local benefit.
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“We’re supported well locally,” Mayer said. “There are people who disagree, but we have good local support. The State doesn’t support us as much as the local communities. They (locals) see the economic benefit of not just the CISF, but also the fabrication facility.
“There will not be cyclical hiring and firing.”
Gerges Scott, Holtec’s consultant in New Mexico, said the fabrication facility will bolster Holtec’s positive effects in coming to New Mexico.
“It is important everyone understands it is not just the CISF. There’s also the manufacturing facility,” Scott said. “That’s important and that means jobs. It’s a win-win for everyone. It fits the economic format and benefit for New Mexico.”
John Heaton, chair of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance – a consortium of Eddy and Lea counties and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs that sited the project and recruited Holtec – said the case for locating fabrication in Carlsbad was clear.
He said Carlsbad is close to where the Holtec site will ultimately be located, and the area has the workforce and manufacturing capabilities needed.
“I’m sure they will be looking at other areas, but we will be competitive,” Heaton said. “It’s just another in a long list of prominent items in our area. It’s potential for another large number of jobs in the area.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, email@example.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Holtec aims for manufacturing site in Carlsbad for nuclear waste project, add 150 jobs
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