Nuclear waste storage project opposed by many during public meeting

Noel Marquez of Artesia, cofounder of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, wears a t-shirt reading "No Holtec International" during a public meeting on Tuesday in Albuquerque. (Maddy Hayden/Journal)

May 22nd, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — After public meetings hosted around the state, leaders at Holtec International, the company that has proposed the building of an interim storage facility for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in southeast New Mexico, say they haven’t heard any valid arguments against the technical aspects of the project.

But more than 100 people still attended a more than three-hour meeting hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to voice their concerns Tuesday evening in Albuquerque.

The majority spoke out against the project, with many whooping and applauding their agreement and booing at statements made in support of the proposal.

The meeting was the fifth held in recent weeks around the state, including in Gallup, Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Opponents of the project expressed doubts about the safety of transporting the fuel across the country, possible ill effects of radiation to local communities and threats posed by terrorists. They also questioned the reasoning behind placing a spent fuel storage facility in a state that is home to no nuclear power plants.

"New Mexico is not a wasteland because we’re a desert," said Erica Lea-Simka. "New Mexico is not a wasteland because we’re a poor state. New Mexico is not a wasteland because we have a lot of brown and native people."

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The NRC will take public scoping comments until July 30, 2018.

This is your chance to speak out against the dangerous plan to import high-level radioactive waste from US nuclear reactors around the country and store it for up to 120 years at a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

The scoping period for Holtec’s application has been extended. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take public scoping comments until July 30, 2018.

How can you submit comments?

Letters to the NRC an be sent from this link: https://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=13813.

Download, personalize and mail the sample comment letter here:


TAKE ACTION!

To download a petition you can use to gather signatures:


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Press Release

All the Nation’s High Level Nuclear Waste Coming to New Mexico?
Together We Can Protect Our Lands and Way of Life


What Could Go Wrong

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Key Facts:

  • Holtec and Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) seek to build a high-level radioactive waste storage facility just between Hobbs and Carlsbad, NM, where they want to store 100,000 metric tons of this dangerous waste for up to 120 years – 40 years through initial licensing and 80 years for license extensions. Holtec hopes to begin construction in 2020 and complete Phase 1 in 1.5 years, with operation beginning in 2022.
  • Holtec plans for a nationwide dump. 78,000 metric tons irradiated fuel have already been produced by U.S. nuclear reactors, so Holtec’s application would cover every bit of what has already been produced, plus all that is likely to be generated by today’s reactors by the time they close.
  • If the NRC approves the license, thousands of shipments of deadly radioactive waste would move across the nation for over 20 years, posing risks from accidents, leaks and terrorist actions.
  • Some radiation would leak from transport containers. The NRC says that this the amount is minimal, but there could be impacts for those along transport routes or for someone who gets stuck next to a train.
  • If New Mexico or Texas accepts deadly high-level radioactive waste for storage, the sites would likely become de facto permanent disposal sites for the whole country. Utilities would no longer be lobbying for a final repository and thus Congress wouldn’t fund one. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) raised this issue in their 2014 report on high-level radioactive waste.
  • We can predict transportation routes, but they wouldn’t actually be designated and approved by USDOT and the NRC until 2022, when licensing could be complete. Citizens and policymakers need to know the routes before a decision to license radioactive consolidated radioactive waste storage is made.
  • High-level radioactive waste must remain isolated from living things for thousands of years. It is mainly irradiated (spent) fuel rods from nuclear reactors, which still contain most of their original uranium, as well as with radioactive strontium, cesium and plutonium, which are created during the reactor fission process. Plutonium remains
    dangerous for over a quarter of a million years. Inhaling it causes cancer.
  • About 100,000 metric tons of irradiated fuel will have been generated by existing U.S. reactors by the time they cease operating, with roughly 1000 metric tons of plutonium. If separated, that’s enough plutonium for 120,000 nuclear bombs.
  • A report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), acknowledges the vulnerability of radioactive waste to sabotage during transport, and that consequences due to sabotage or accidents are also higher during transport since the waste may be near population centers.
  • DOE calculated that train transport would have an accident rate of 1 in 10,000 shipments. At least one train accident was expected to occur if transport was mainly by train. Over 10,000 shipments were anticipated for Yucca Mountain.
  • A DOE report found that a severe accident involving one radioactive waste cask that released only a small amount of waste would contaminate a 42-square mile area, with cleanup costs exceeding $620 million in a rural area. Clean up in an urban area would be time consuming. It could cost up to $9.5 billion to raze and rebuild the most heavily contaminated square mile.
  • Each railcar of high-level radioactive waste would carry roughly the amount of plutonium that was contained in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. (not in bomb grade form)

Map: New Mexico Sate Rail System in 2014
New Mexico Rail map


Nuclear waste could be headed to West Texas under house bill

"The whole nation could be at risk from an unprecedented mass movement of high-level radioactive waste across the nation, with 10,000 rail cars of deadly waste being transported over a period of 20 or more years," said Karen Hadden, director of the Austin-based advocacy group Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition.
Read more…

HR 3053 passed in the US House – May 10, 2018

Thanks to Texas Representatives Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Al Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Beto O’Rourke and New Mexico Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan for voting against HR 3053, a bill that removes barriers to storing radioactive waste in Texas and New Mexico. The bill still has to go to the Senate, where opposition is expected to be stronger than in the House of Representatives.

To see the roll call for votes on this bill…

Learn more…