Remember when the phrase ‘money pit’ used to mean a property that was costing you more money than it was worth? Well, over in Andrews County West Texas, it has one of the most valuable money pits in the world. Waste Control Specialist (WCS) opened up their waste facility in 2012 to low-level ‘radioactive’ waste (LLW).
Why would the people of Andrews, Texas, want to have this waste in their backyard? Space inside a pit goes for $10,000 a cubic foot in most cases, but sometimes more depending on the waste class (A, B or C). There is enough radioactive waste to be managed that I agree with others; it could be a trillion dollar industry.
For example, there are currently 12 shuttered nuclear power plants across the country today. In the next 20 years, between 50 and 60 NPPs will be decommissioned. At $10K a cubic foot for LLW it will supplement the budgets of Andrews County (5 percent) and the State of Texas (25 percent) from WCS’ gross income. Each reactor could generate millions in storage fees and create a healthy revenue stream for Texas.
The WCS site has a current storage capacity of 1,338 acres on the 14,000 acre company property near West Texas border. It is actually a 5 minute drive from Eunice and nearly a third of the employees live in NM and yet, NM does not profit from the risk of having the storage facility as a suburb. WCS has recently applied for a license to temporarily store spent (unused) nuclear fuel as well. More money for Texas!
The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) is also focused on getting a license to manage the SNF currently stored safely at each NPP. However, irrational fear has prevailed over the nuclear industry for 60 years and many communities don’t want it in their backyards. Fortunately, Eddy and Lea communities already understand the benefit/risk ratio.
Holtec International is one of several companies seeking cooperation from the federal government and has partnered with ELEA to construct a facility in SENM, just east of WIPP, to store SNF. Holtec has also developed an advanced nuclear reactor to consume the stored SNF and is partnering with a Canadian company to commercialize it. New Mexico could be the first state in the union to have a commercialized, clean and safe, advanced nuclear power facility.