US NRC Considers Holtec Nuclear Decommissioning Exemption Request; Massachusetts AG Outlines Risks of Holtec Exemption


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Giving Holtec “exemptions” appears to be a favorite activity for the US NRC. They have piled quality exemption upon exemption for Holtec’s spent nuclear fuel canisters/casks. Now they are trying to allow exemptions of a new variety. Why has Holtec, apparently privatedly owned by Kris P. Singh, been allowed to get by with this? How much longer? Is someone or something else hiding behind him?

While it appears that comment may be accepted at, we were unable to find the docket as of 6:47 am EDT (DC time). It may be added later.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
ACTION: Environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact; issuance.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is considering issuance of an exemption in response to a November 16, 2018, request from Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (ENOI or the licensee) on behalf of Entergy Nuclear Generation Company (ENGC) (to be renamed Holtec Pilgrim, LLC) and Holtec Decommissioning International, LLC (HDI), related to Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Pilgrim), located in Plymouth County, Massachusetts. The proposed action would permit Holtec Pilgrim, LLC and HDI to use funds from the Pilgrim decommissioning trust fund (the Trust) for management of spent fuel and site restoration activities. The staff is issuing a final environmental assessment (EA) and a final finding of no significant impact (FONSI) associated with the proposed exemption.
The EA and FONSI referenced in this document are available on August 20, 2019.
Please refer to Docket ID NRC-2019-0152 when contacting the NRC about the availability of information regarding this document. You may obtain publicly-available information related to this document using any of the following methods:
* Federal Rulemaking Website: Go to and search for Docket ID NRC-2019-0152. Address questions about NRC docket IDs in to Jennifer Borges; telephone: 301-287-9127; email: For technical questions, contact the individual listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document…
.”. See more here:

Excerpts from Massachusetts petition to intervene in transfer of ownership of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from Entergy to Holtec:

Counsel for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Commonwealth contends that the Applicants have not demonstrated that the Decommissioning Trust Fund, standing alone and in light of Holtec’s Exemption Request,3 will provide adequate financial assurance as required by the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the Commission’s regulations. Indeed, Holtec’s own Cost Estimate predicts that it will have a meager $3.6 million left in the Trust Fund on the license termination date—an amount that, on its face, raises serious questions about whether adequate financial assurance exists. Those questions are made even more serious by the fact that, as explained in detail below, Entergy and Holtec have ignored significant possible contingencies that would, if included, likely result in an estimated shortfall (i.e., insufficient funds to cover all anticipated costs). While the Commonwealth welcomes the possibility of a properly conducted and expedited cleanup and restoration of Pilgrim, the risk of a funding shortfall and the attendant significant health, safety, environmental, financial and economic risks to the Commonwealth and its citizens raise serious questions about the realization of that benefit. The risk of a funding shortfall is radiological, environmental, and financial. If, for example, the Decommissioning Trust Fund is insufficient to cover all of Holtec’s costs, there is no guarantee that Massachusetts citizens will not become the payers of last resort. On the current record, the Commission cannot find, as it must, that the LTA would, if allowed, provide “adequate protection to the health and safety of the public.” 42 U.S.C. § 2232(a)…

The LTA is explicitly intertwined with Holtec’s Exemption Request and Holtec’s plan for immediate decommissioning as described in its Revised PSDAR, which includes cost estimates for decommissioning, spent fuel management, and site restoration. Indeed, Holtec acknowledges that it needs the requested exemption from 10 C.F.R. § 50.82(a)(8)(i)(A)’s decommissioning trust fund account use restriction because Holtec needs to use those funds to cover its spent fuel management costs and because it “must” perform “site restoration activities” “prior to completion of radiological decommissioning.” LTA, Encl. 2, at E-1…

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Failure to account for unanticipated costs

12. The LTA, Exemption Request, and Revised PSDAR also fail to comply with 10 C.F.R. § 50.82(a)(8)(i)(B) and (C) because, as explained in detail in the attached declarations, there are multiple ways that Holtec could experience significant, unaccounted for, cost overruns.

These cost overruns could very likely lead to a shortfall in the Decommissioning Trust Fund and an associated public health, safety, and environmental risk.

(a) Delays in the work schedule leading to increased costs for overhead and project management. Even without any added direct costs, a delay in a single activity would likely delay the overall decommissioning schedule, which would lead to a significant, unaccounted for increase in costs for overhead and project staffing and management. Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 8-9;

(b) Compliance with existing Massachusetts standards for non-radiological hazardous materials cleanup under the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act, Mass. Gen. L. c. 21E, §§ 1-22 (Chapter 21E) and its regulations, the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP), 310 C.M.R. §§ 40.0000, et seq., or unanticipated site conditions that are not accounted for in Holtec’s Cost Estimate. Brewer Decl. ¶ 10; Locke Decl. ¶¶ 6-9; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. These unaccounted-for requirements and issues could result in higher than estimated costs and a longer timeline for completion, which, in turn, could result in delays and a shortfall in the Decommissioning Trust Fund. Brewer Decl. ¶ 10;

(c) The likely discovery of previously unknown radiological or non-radiological contamination. Brewer Decl. ¶ 11; Locke Decl.¶¶ 3-4; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7; Priest Decl. ¶¶ 11-14. Holtec has not yet performed a site characterization of Pilgrim. Locke Decl.¶¶ 7-9; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7; Priest Decl. ¶¶ 5-14. Thus, Holtec based its cost estimate only on historical data, which it has not disclosed in its Revised PSDAR. Brewer Decl. ¶ 11; Locke Decl.¶¶ 7-9; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7. The actual extent of any contamination is thus unknown. Locke Decl.¶¶ 7-9; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7; Priest Decl.

¶¶ 5-14. In the likely event that currently unidentified and unknown contamination is discovered, it could significantly increase the cost of decommissioning and site restoration. Brewer Decl. ¶ 11; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-6;

(d) A radiological incident at the site. Brewer Decl. ¶ 12. Once the spent nuclear fuel is in dry cask storage, the chances of a radiological incident decreases. Id. However, until that occurs, there is a risk of a radiological event. Id. For instance, there is a risk of a radiological event occurring during the transfer of spent nuclear fuel into the spent fuel pool, and again into dry casks. Id. Should this occur, a shortfall in the Decommissioning Trust Fund could occur from significant increases in both costs and delays. Id.;

(e) A DOE requirement to repackage spent nuclear fuel into new containers that DOE has approved for transportation in the event DOE fulfills its legal obligation to take possession of all spent nuclear fuel stored onsite. Brewer Decl. ¶ 13. Holtec assumes that DOE will accept the spent nuclear fuel as-is, i.e., in the dry storage casks acquired by Entergy and Holtec. Id. However, DOE could arguably require the spent nuclear fuel to be repackaged into certain specific dry casks for transport. Id. If DOE
were to require repackaging of the spent nuclear fuel, this could require Holtec to incur significant unaccounted-for costs, especially because Holtec will already have dismantled the spent nuclear fuel pool. Id.;

(EPA) drinking water limit.8

If later sampling during the decommissioning process discovers exceedances, Holtec will be required to address those exceedances—at great expense—because “keeping radionuclides below the EPA limit is necessary to maintain public safety at a decommissioning facility.” In re Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC, LBP-15-24, at 25.

There is also contaminated soil located in multiple locations around the site, and other historical releases into the environment associated with a former condenser tube refurbishment building. Priest Decl. ¶¶ 8-10; see also Locke Decl. ¶¶ 8-9 (identifying releases reported to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP)).

The age of Pilgrim also makes it likely that Holtec will discover polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and asbestos in and around the buildings. Howland Decl. ¶ 7; Locke Decl.¶ 6. The cost to legally remediate, transport, and dispose of this non-radiological contamination, much of which is likely to be comingled with radiologically contaminated material, can be extraordinary. Yet, the LTA, Revised PSDAR, and associated Cost Estimate fail to consider the costs associated with these contingencies, which, given site-specific information and experience at other decommissioning projects, are likely to occur. Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 8-9, 11; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7; Priest Decl. ¶¶ 11-14.

15. The NRC has held in prior proceedings that, for example, when evaluating potential expenses related to the cleanup of other nuclear sites, a decommissioning trust fund shortfall from groundwater contamination is a significant possibility, and a shortfall arising from unexpected spent fuel management expenses is “very possible.”9 See also Brewer Decl. ¶¶ 13, 15 (noting that the cost to construct a fuel transfer station is between $150 and $450 million and that it is “very possible” that Holtec would incur $7 million in spent fuel management costs beyond its currently estimated 2016 end date). These, and the other potential funding shortfalls listed above, are thus not “remote and highly speculative.”10 Even if Holtec is aware of the known and likely radiological and non-radiological contamination at Pilgrim, until a full site characterization is completed, including a complete assessment of the vertical and horizontal extent of the non-radiological contamination, Holtec will not know the extent of these contingencies or if there are any others. Priest Decl. ¶¶ 11-14; Locke Decl. ¶¶ 7-9; Howland Decl. ¶¶ 5-7.

16. Indeed, Holtec’s Cost Estimate is precisely that: an estimate, not a guarantee. And, as described in detail in the attached Brewer, Howland, Locke, Priest, and Newhard Declarations, Holtec’s Cost Estimate itself is deficient in many respects that cause it to significantly underestimate possible costs to decommission and restore the site and manage Pilgrim spent nuclear fuel. At Connecticut Yankee, for example, previously undiscovered strontium-90 required excavation and remediation of a large trench around the reactor water storage tank. Priest Decl. ¶¶ 11-12. The cost of performing this unanticipated work doubled the estimated decommissioning costs for Connecticut Yankee. During the decommissioning of Maine Yankee, the licensee encountered pockets of highly contaminated groundwater dammed up by existing structures, which caused significant cost increases. Yankee Rowe, located in Massachusetts, incurred similarly significant decommissioning cost increases when PCBs were discovered in paint covering the steel from the vapor container that housed the nuclear reactor, as well as in sheathing on underground cables. Howland Decl. ¶ 5. It is thus reasonably foreseeable that Holtec’s site-specific cost estimate significantly underestimates the likely actual costs that it will incur…

Holtec’s Corporate Structure Increases Risks

25. The financial and attendant safety, health, and environmental risks associated with the LTA are further increased by the corporate structure of the proposed transferee and new site operators. Holtec Decommissioning International and Holtec Pilgrim, the proposed licensee and new site operator, respectively, are both structured as Limited Liability Companies (“LLCs”). LTA at 1, Fig.2: Simplified Organization Chart (Post-Transfer). This raises a significant risk that the owner and operator could at some point have liabilities that outstrip their assets and could therefore choose to file for bankruptcy before site decontamination and restoration are complete. See Newhard Decl. ¶ 5. This, in turn, raises numerous thus-far-unanalyzed health, safety, and environmental concerns, including the significant possibility that certain decommissioning, spent fuel management, or site restoration activities will not occur due to lack of funding; thus, potentially leaving the Commonwealth and its taxpayers to bear the financial burden and responsibility for finishing the work.

26. Because Holtec is an independent company (rather than a rate-regulated utility), it cannot go back to ratepayers if it has underestimated the costs of decommissioning, spent fuel management, or site restoration. Nor can anyone necessarily assume that Holtec can obtain additional funds from a parent company because, as the NRC has said previously, a “parent company is not an NRC licensee” and the “NRC does not have the authority to require a parent company to pay for the decommissioning expenses of its subsidiary-licensee, except to the extent the parent may voluntarily provide” a parent company guarantee.25 Holtec is also involved in other decommissioning projects at other nuclear plant sites, such as San Onofre in California, which will potentially draw upon its parent company’s resources and detract from the attention needed at Pilgrim.

The lack of a guaranteed ratepayer base or a parent company that is liable for any cost overruns raises numerous thus-far-unanalyzed health, safety, and environmental concerns, including the significant possibility that certain decommissioning, spent fuel management, or site restoration activities will not occur due to lack of funding…” Emphasis our own. Excerpted from: “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION BEFORE THE SECRETARY In the Matter of ENTERGY NUCLEAR OPERATIONS, INC., ENTERGY NUCLEAR GENERATION COMPANY, AND HOLTEC DECOMMISSIONING INTERNATIONAL, LLC; CONSIDERATION OF APPROVAL OF TRANSFER OF LICENSE AND CONFORMING AMENDMENT (Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station) Docket Nos. 50-293 & 72-1044 COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS’ PETITION FOR LEAVE TO INTERVENE AND HEARING REQUEST Dated: February 20, 2019 MAURA HEALEY ATTORNEY GENERAL SETH SCHOFIELD Senior Appellate Counsel JOSEPH DORFLER Assistant Attorney General Energy and Environment Bureau Office of the Attorney General
See original document in its entirety here:

Note that the huge but thin (mostly 1/2 inch thick) Holtec spent fuel canisters constitute a radiological risk in and of themselves, especially over time.