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Rapacious nuclear company Holtec: its dodgy record on safety, finance and lack of transparency

New Mexico’s nuclear rush.  A massive nuclear waste site near Carlsbad is seemingly on a fast track. Can the company behind it be trusted? Searchlight, By Sammy Feldblum and Tovah Strong|February 3, 2021

-” ………………There really is no fixed date on a repository,” said Rod McCullum of the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group. In the absence of a permanent storage place, the conversation has turned to interim storage sites that could save companies money until a final destination is established.Enter Holtec. The company was formed in the 1980s to design spent-fuel storage technology for nuclear plants. By the early 2000s, Holtec had secured contracts to provide specialized dry storage casks for a never-built interim facility on the Skull Valley Goshute reservation in Utah and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah Nuclear and Browns Ferry Nuclear plants. By 2018, Holtec operated branches in seven countries, including Ukraine and Spain.

In 2019, Holtec began acquiring decommissioned nuclear power plants. (Such plants can bring large profits, including whatever decommissioning funds are left over after they’ve been cleaned up.) Holtec purchased New Jersey’s Oyster Creek Generating Station; Massachusetts’ Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station; New York’s Indian Point Energy Center; and Michigan’s Palisades Nuclear Generating Station, as well as spent fuel from the former Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant.

But the company’s record was not without concern. Holtec has received an estimated nine violation notices since 2001 for failing to follow NRC quality assurance procedures, including rules meant to ensure that the company’s storage casks — the kind it would be using in New Mexico — consistently met safety standards.

The most recent violation occurred in 2018 when Holtec modified its casks without notifying the NRC, as mandated. The change was only discovered when workers preparing to load a cask at San Onofre Generating Station in California noticed a four-inch pin, meant to hold the fuel basket, loose at the bottom of the cask — an obvious manufacturing flaw. When asked for comment on the incidents, a Holtec spokesman told Searchlight that the company is an industry leader in quality assurance.

Holtec has run into other problems as well. An investigation conducted in 2010 by the Tennessee Valley Authority into suspected overbilling revealed that the company had bribed a TVA employee in order to secure a contract. In 2007, the employee pleaded guilty to concealing more than $54,000 received from Holtec. In the wake of the investigation, the TVA ordered the company to pay a $2 million fine, open its operations to outside monitors and face a largely symbolic 60-day ban from doing federal business — the first debarment in TVA history.

In 2014, Holtec failed to mention that debarment on tax credit application forms. The misrepresentation initially went unnoticed, allowing the company to receive $260 million in tax credits from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), a story first reported by ProPublica and WNYC.

In 2019, the NJEDA announced it would investigate Holtec’s use of tax credits, prompting the company to sue the agency for withholding money. (The NJEDA declined to answer questions about the investigation’s status, saying it did not comment on matters related to pending litigation.)

Holtec’s use of offshore banking has also come under scrutiny. According to leaked records called the Paradise Papers, Holtec has operated at least one shell corporation in Bermuda between 2005 and 2007. The records, which were obtained by the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, listed Krishna P. Singh II as an officer: He is the son of Holtec CEO Krishna P. Singh. Several of the CEO’s other family members were also listed as officers, as was Niraj Chaudhary, director of the executive committee for Holtec Asia. An additional offshore company in Bermuda that operated during the same time period, Southampton Technologies Ltd., included nearly identical officers and was listed at the same address.

Holtec did not respond to questions from Searchlight about why the accounts were used and whether the company still keeps bank accounts in tax havens. The leaked records don’t reveal this information, either. But tax havens like Bermuda can allow companies to avoid paying taxes.

“There’s nothing inherently nefarious about [the accounts],” said Jack Blum, a national authority on international tax evasion and money laundering whose anti-corruption work contributed to the establishment of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. However, Blum told Searchlight, Holtec “is a closely held company that has a history of being controlled by its founders, and wherever it goes, it wants to keep its finances as secret as it can and its taxes as low as it can.”

In general, Blum said: “Companies that are dealing in nuclear materials are in a world where there’s very little transparency.” 

Holtec did not respond to questions from Searchlight about why the accounts were used and whether the company still keeps bank accounts in tax havens.  …….

February 4, 2021 - Posted by | Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA

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