Company shows interest in developing a nuclear waste recycling center in Mingo County
Bruce Justice (Mingo Messenger) May 08, 2022
A company in the business of converting nuclear waste materials back into reusable products is showing interest in building a waste recycling facility in Mingo County. During her report to the board of directors at the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority’s April 27 meeting, Executive Director Leasha Johnson said the MCRA was recently approached by Congresswoman Carol Miller about the agency hosting a company she had been working with that is interested in building a recycling facility somewhere in West Virginia. Johnson said representatives of that company, known as Curio, initially expressed a desire to Miller about coming to Mingo County to check out possible sites here, mainly due to the county’s low population density as well the seclusion that reclaimed mine sites would provide. “That basically was the main reason Congresswoman Miller recommended that they come here,” Johnson said. “She said she knew when they said they wanted to go to the coalfields that we would work with her and them and be very hospitable if they came for a visit.” Johnson said Miller and three of the company’s representatives came to Mingo County on April 25. According to these representatives, Johnson explained, if built the recycling facility would convert approximately 4,000 metric tons of nuclear byproducts per month. “This would be indicative of all the U.S. nuclear fuel, either exported for recycling or it becomes an environmental liability,” she said. “According to them, once fuel is passed through nuclear reactors there’s still 96 percent of usable content that no one in the U.S. is recycling right now. So they’re proposing to extract these byproducts and turn them into reusable products.” Johnson said the marketing of these products, such as medical isotopes used in cancer treatment and certain space equipment used by NASA, is at a high level. She said another primary reason the company is interested in building the facility in West Virginia is because of the state’s ideal central geographical location. “We are almost in the dead center of all the nuclear reactors in the country because they are concentrated more in the eastern part of the United States,” she said. Johnson said the company’s plans are longterm, meaning officials would not expect the full facility to be in operation until 2035, nor its planned pilot facility before 2028. Once site evaluation has been completed and a site settled on, Johnson said the facility itself would require an area about the size of a football field.
“The facility would be modular … the recycling process is in three different stages, with the first stage being above ground and the second two stages being underground,” she said. “Again, all this is preliminary and why a lot of geo-technical work would have to be done. But overall they would like to have 200 to 300 acres for the facility.” Johnson said the company’s initial investment in current dollars would be around $1 billion and that it additionally would create around 3,000 jobs just within the recycling center itself. She said there could potentially be as many as 1,000 downstream jobs once the facility is completely operational. Another site prerequisite, Johnson explained, was that the site would be required to have railroad accessibility due the recyclable materials being shipped by rail in 80,000 lb. casks that couldn’t be hauled on public highways. “So once they’re removed from the rail carrier they could be on some portion of a coal haul road, but probably not on a state or federal highway,” she said.
Johnson said Curio officials visited the Ben Creek coal facility, which has rail access, and said the expansive property was ideal for their proposed operation and the type of property they’re looking for. “They were very adamant that there would be no waste, no disposal as a result of their process … that it would be very environmentally safe and sound,” she said. “So while everything is still in a preliminary stage, it was a very good meeting and Congresswoman Miller was very happy that we were willing to show them what is available to them here in Mingo County.”
In a statement released to the Mingo Messenger following the company’s visit to Mingo County, CEO Edward McGinnis said Curio “sees great potential in partnering with West Virginia, including in particular Mingo County, in realizing the full potential of our nation’s nuclear energy sector and technological capabilities. “This potential extends to providing a vital domestic supply of clean nuclear fuel for our current fleet of reactors; key fission-based power sources for the rapidly growing space-based industry; and highly important nuclear technology application areas such as medical isotopes and advanced nuclear batteries,” the statement said.