Plutonium Profiteering – Ignominious Endgame of the Nuclear Age?

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By James Heddle, Mary Beth Brangan – EON
Crossposted on Substack

Holtec: A Company On A Roll with Global Reach
Holtec International is a private, multi-national company founded in 1986 by its President and CEO Dr. Kris Singh. Today, according to its website, Holtec boasts “a business footprint in eighteen countries on five continents.”


With a seeming aim at both vertical and horizontal monopolies, its divisions have fingers in a number of related areas including manufacturing of nuclear plant components; nuclear fuel and waste management system components and locations; decommissioning of shuttered nuclear power plants; and development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

A Formidable Corporate Rap Sheet

During its decades-long rise to global reach under Dr. Singh’s autocratic rule the company has developed a reputation including bribery, poor quality control, financial fraud, abuse of labor rights and running roughshod over the informed democratic choices of citizens impacted by its actions.

We reported on some of Holtec transgressions in a 2019 Counterpunch article, Halting Holtec – A Challenge for Nuclear Safety Advocates, and updated in 2020 in Holtec Faces Opposition on

Since then Holtec has been up to more mischief. In its decommissioning activities in it takes ownership of shuttered nuclear power plants, thus gaining access to the massive decommissioning trust funds amassed over decades from ratepayers’ contributions.


Its projects include Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Cape Cod Bay and Indian Point near New York City on the Hudson. At Pilgrim, the company has alarmed regional residents by announcing plans to dump over a million gallons of radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay. As part of its decommissioning plan at Indian Point, Holtec has proposed dumping up to one million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Hudson as early as this August.

Pilgrim –

Readers will note that this repeats a pattern seen at the international level. NPR reports,

“The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved a plan by Japan to release more than a million tons of treated nuclear waste water from the destroyed Fukushima power plant into the ocean, despite vehement international opposition.

In a report released Tuesday, the IAEA said it has concluded after a two-year assessment that the plan is “consistent with relevant international safety standards” and that while societal, political and environmental concerns have been raised, the discharged water “will have negligible radiological impact on people and the environment.”

Elsewhere in the News

On July 7th, Amanda Oglesby published an article in the Asbury Park Press entitled “Ex-Holtec CFO accuses company of ‘make believe’ financial statements in whistleblower suit.’

Kevin O’Rourke – Credit:

According to a report from Beyond Nuclear, Kevin O’Rourke, a fired former Holtec CFO has come forward with whistleblower charges that

“Holtec CEO, Krishna Singh, the company, and a dozen yet to be named Holtec employees, violated New Jersey whistleblower protection law. O’Rourke accuses Singh of firing him for refusing to sign off, and put his name on financial misrepresentations intended to secure major financial investment from South Korean firm Hyundai Engineering and Construction, for Holtec’s small modular reactor development initiative.”

Kris Singh – Credit:

The Beyond Nuclear report continues,

“O’Rourke claims that he was ordered by Holtec’s CEO, Krishna Singh, to tell Hyundai Engineering and Construction that Holtec expected to “break even” during the first five years of operations of its proposed nuclear waste facility in New Mexico, when Holtec’s internal projection was actually a $150,000,000 annual loss for those five years.

Dracula in Charge of a Blood Bank

Arnie Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Energy, comments that giving Holtec access to decommissioning funds at shuttered nuclear plants is like “placing Dracula in charge of a blood bank.” Gundersen explains, “If the whistleblower is just right on only one-third of his Holtec fraud estimate of $750,000,000, the Palisades decommissioning fund will be sucked dry by Holtec, leaving Michigan with the carcass.”

Beyond Nuclear and Don’t Waste Michigan sent a letter to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer stating: “We request that you impose an immediate administrative freeze on the expenditure of any of the $150,000,000 appropriated by the Legislature on June 28, 2023, for Holtec’s restart of Palisades until there are unconditional assurances that Holtec’s management is operating honestly and wholly within the law.”

Beyond Nuclear reports that, together with Don’t Waste Michigan, it had

“spearheaded a coalition letter to all 148 Michigan state legislators on June 28th, urging opposition to Holtec’s request for $150 million for the Palisades restart. Forty-three Michigan groups, including the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, the Board of Directors of the statewide Anishinaabek Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, as well as the Native-led Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi Two (CRAFT), Michigan Climate Action Network, Washtenaw350, For Love of Water, Freshwater Future, and Clean Water Action Michigan, to name just several of the Michigan organizations which endorsed the letter. The coalition’s members and supporters represent hundreds of thousands of Michiganders.”

Friends in High Places?

As in other cases showing Holtec’s ability to end run the public will, despite this massive show of citizen opposition the Beyond Nuclear report goes on, “just several hours after the letter was sent to Michigan legislators, the Palisades restart bailout was nevertheless approved by both legislative chambers, as part of an $82 billion omnibus budget bill.”

The pattern continues with Holtec’s proposed – and much opposed – Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) site in New Mexico, which would bring hundreds of shipments of radioactive waste to the state on rickety rail lines and bridges through non-consenting , alarmed communities from across the country .

To be buried sub-grade –

According to Holtec’s License Request

  • The proposed CISF would be located on approximately 420.9 ha [1,040 ac] of land in southeastern New Mexico. The land for the Holtec CISF is owned by the Eddy-Lea Alliance, but would be purchased by Holtec prior to construction; however, access to the site and a proposed rail spur would require a BLM easement.
  • In its license application, Holtec requests authorization in the initial phase of the project to store 5,000 metric tons of uranium (MTUs) in approximately 500 canisters for a license period of 40 years. However, because the capacity of individual canisters can vary, the 500 canisters proposed in the Holtec license application have the potential to hold up to 8,680 MTUs. The NRC’s safety and environmental analyses will take into account the maximum potential capacity of the facility. The larger capacity was clarified through NRC’s Request for Additional Information (RAI) process.
  • In addition to the first phase, Holtec has stated its intent to request license amendments in the future to expand the facility to eventually store up to 10,000 canisters of SNF. Additional NRC reviews would take place for subsequent license amendments.

Last February , the Carlsbad Current Argus reported,

“a bill intended to block a nuclear waste storage project in southeast New Mexico took a big step toward becoming law this week, passing the State Senate Monday on a 21-13 vote.

“Senate Bill 53 was introduced by Las Cruces Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36) a frequent critic of a proposal by Holtec International to build a temporary storage site for spent nuclear fuel rods at a remote site near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

“The bill would prevent the State from issuing permits needed to operate such a site should it lack expressed consent from New Mexico officials and if the federal government has yet to site a permanent disposal site for the waste.”

A Bad Idea, Full Stop

On May 9, 2023, New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard issued a statement regarding the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to issue a license for the construction of Holtec International’s nuclear storage facility in Lea County.

Statement from Commissioner Garcia Richard:

“This is a bad idea, full stop. Placing a nuclear storage facility in the heart of oil and gas operations is a recipe for ecological disaster and unnecessarily puts New Mexicans at risk. Since being elected Land Commissioner, I have been opposed to making New Mexico the permanent home for nuclear waste because of the threats to New Mexicans’ health, safety, and economic development.  We shouldn’t let unelected bureaucrats in Washington jam through this shaky proposal that will bring massive profits to an out-of-state company with a troubled safety record, while putting our people and environment in harm’s way.  Bottom line, the world’s most active oil and gas producing field is not the right place for a long-term nuclear waste storage site. Holtec needs to understand that New Mexico is not the nation’s dumping ground and should stop misleading the public about the dangers their proposal presents.”

“The proposed waste dump site is located in the middle of the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most productive oil and gas regions.  Nearly 2,500 oil, gas, and mineral wells or sites are operated by 54 different businesses or entities within a 10-mile radius of the proposed site. Locating an interim nuclear storage site above active oil, gas, and mining operations raises serious safety concerns. Also threatened by the site would be the billions of dollars in annual revenue that State Land Office leases generate for education in New Mexico.

“Additionally, the surface and mineral estates have split ownership at the proposed site, with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance LLC owning the surface land and the State of New Mexico, through the State Land Office, owning the mineral estate beneath the land. Holtec has falsely claimed to have secured agreements from oil and gas operators at or around the site to restrict these activities, specifically assuring the NRC that oil and gas drilling will only occur at depths greater than 5,000 feet.  However, there are no such agreements containing these restrictions in place with oil and gas lessees at the site or the State Land Office.  One agreement has been made with Intrepid Mining, LLC, a potash mining company, but that agreement has not been approved, as required by lease terms, by the State Land Office.”

Growth Industry or Dead End?

As we have shown in our previous article Outing the Nuclear Energy Weapons Connection and elsewhere, the Nuclear Enterprise is a triad built of energy, weapons and waste.

For many denuclearization advocates around the world, Holtec has earned a well-earned reputation as the poster child for plutonium profiteering. But it is by no means without would be competitors. For many like Singh, the Nuclear Enterprise is seen as a potentially perpetual cash cow.

With the operation of old, embrittled nuclear power reactors being extended far beyond their design lives, and the dream of mass production of radioactive waste-producing Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) for use on land, at sea and in space being promulgated, it might look like Kris Singh’s vision of a vertical and horizontal nuclear monopoly may have a chance of fulfillment.

But informed citizen and official opposition to the entire Enterprise in all its aspects is increasing despite slick, high-end propaganda pieces like Oliver Stone’s misinformed and dis-informing plutopian peon Nuclear Now. There are active, citizen-driven nuclear opposition movements at work in key states around the country including: Michigan, California, Maine, New York, New Mexico, Texas and Illinois.

The increasing domination of the Enterprise by ethically challenged corporations like Holtec may well contain the seeds of its own demise.


Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle Co-Direct EON, the Ecological Options Network.. The EON feature documentary S.O.S. – The San Onofre Syndrome – Nuclear Power’s Legacy will be released later this year.