No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

Nuclear Issues Study Group Roundhouse Report

March 2018

Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice

image by Rachel Abeyta

The Nuclear Issues Study Group proudly participated in the 2018 New Mexico Legislative Session. Our primary focus at the Roundhouse was to educate legislators about the threat of High-Level Radioactive Waste coming to New Mexico and to ask them for support to address this issue. Right now, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is processing an application from Holtec International (working with Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance) to build a nuclear waste facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs. This would be a "temporary" waste dump referred to as Centralized "Interim " Storage (CIS), which would hold all of the nation’s commercial waste from nuclear power plants for up to 120 years.

In a collective effort, our group worked with Sen. Cisco McSorley and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard and many others on a letter from New Mexico legislators to NRC requesting that they slow down the licensing process in order to thoroughly study how this waste could impact New Mexico before approving Holtec’s application. In total, 21 representatives and 9 senators signed onto this letter! We accomplished this by talking to our officials before the session, while participating at Anti-Racism and Environment Days at the Roundhouse, and during the session. Help came from UNM students, SEED Coalition from Texas, and community members from southeastern NM.

The reality is that there are 2 proposals for CIS facilities in that area (Holtec and Waste Control Specialists near Eunice on the Texas side), but the Holtec application is of utmost priority due to the upcoming public comment process expected to start this spring. As a group, we believe that dumping on New Mexico is an injustice that we must address on a local, state and national level. We will continue working toward stopping further nuclear waste from coming to our enchanted homeland. Thank you to everyone who supported this effort! Want to get involved? We meet at the P&J on the first Wednesdays of the month at 7pm. More info: protectnewmexico@gmail.com or nuclearnewmexico.com/NISG.

–by Cody Slama, image by Rachel Abeyta

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Edison Reveals Design Flaws In New Canisters Storing Nuclear Waste At San Onofre

Friday, March 23, 2018

By Alison St John
KPBS Public Broadcasting CA

Site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre, Jan 2018
Site of spent nuclear fuel storage at San Onofre, Jan 2018
CREDIT: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA EDISON

Southern California Edison stopped loading spent nuclear fuel rods into canisters at San Onofre for about a week, after discovering a design flaw in the new containers built for the nuclear waste.

Edison’s Chief Nuclear Officer Tom Palmisano revealed the problem Thursday night at Edison’s Community Engagement Panel meeting in Laguna Hills. The panel meets quarterly in public to review the decommissioning process.

Holtec International, which designed the storage system known as HI-STORM UMAX, made a design change to an internal component of the storage canisters. SCE discovered a loose pin at the bottom of aluminum shims, designed to create space for helium to flow around the fuel assemblies and cool them.

"We directed the manufacturer to conduct extensive evaluations to ensure we have a comprehensive understanding of this change," Palmisano said.

Edison has resumed loading fuel rod assemblies into canisters with the original design. The company said 30 of the 73 canisters supplied to store the spent nuclear fuel have the original design, which meets the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s criteria, and is used extensively in the industry.

Ray Lutz of the group "Citizens Oversight" said he is very concerned by Palmisano’s response to questions about the problem with the canisters.

"It’s pretty worrisome that the first four canisters that they loaded, already, we’re notified that they are having these defects," Lutz said, "and now, when they were asked, ‘Can we open them up and replace these parts?’ they said, ‘No, no one has ever opened these canisters up, we don’t know how to do it — it would take years of research."

RELATED: Edison Names Panel Of San Onofre Nuclear Waste Advisors

Edison began moving hundreds of spent nuclear fuel rods from cooling pools at the now-shuttered power plant into dry cask storage in January. The stainless steel canisters are partially buried, encased in concrete, next to the beach at San Onofre.

Gary Headrick, of the group San Clemente Green, spoke at the Citizens Engagement Panel meeting. He is concerned about how experimental the process is, and how fast Edison is moving forward with the process of moving the waste.

Palmisano described a radiation monitoring system that would publish results once a month. Several members of the public requested permanent radiation monitoring at the nuclear power plant as it is being decommissioned.

A newly appointed panel of experts is due to meet at San Onofre next Tuesday to discuss how and where to store the fuel rods, which remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years. There is currently nowhere to store them safely long term.

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Plan to store spent nuclear fuel rods in NM

March 16th, 2018

By Maddy Hayden /Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal

Around the country, tens of millions of highly radioactive, spent nuclear fuel rods used in power plants await permanent disposal.

A site in southeastern New Mexico has been proposed to house the nation’s spent nuclear fuel until a permanent repository can be built.

The proposal is in the midst of the licensing process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But a number of financial, regulatory, public support and political challenges remain before the project could come to fruition.

Currently, many of the fuel rods are temporarily entombed in above-ground steel-and concrete-lined casks, while rods that are still too hot sit in pools of constantly circulating water to keep a catastrophic nuclear chain reaction from occurring.

The plan was, originally, to store the rods in the pools until they cooled enough to be reprocessed into additional fuel, a process the Carter administration ended up banning due to fears of nuclear proliferation.

With no permanent disposal site expected to be completed until mid-century at best, the fuel rods remain in the crowded pools and in dry storage awaiting a place of repose.

The NRC accepted the application for review of the New Mexico site at the end of February.

"This is the missing piece of the system to manage the back end of the fuel cycle," said John Heaton, chairman of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a limited liability company made up of Eddy and Lea counties and the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs. The Alliance is working on the project with Holtec International, a supplier of equipment and systems for the energy industry headquartered in Jupiter, Fla.

The Alliance purchased about 1,000 acres of land located between Carlsbad and Hobbs for a consolidated interim storage site.

Heaton said the project will likely cost $2.4 billion when it’s all said and done; not much, he said, when compared to the taxpayer money the project could save.

He cited a 2016 study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory that predicted $15 billion would be saved by 2040 if a consolidated interim storage facility is used, and the savings would increase from there.

The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act stipulated that the federal government would take ownership of spent nuclear fuel for placement in a permanent repository by 1998.

When that didn’t happen, utility companies sued the U.S. Department of Energy.

As a result, the DOE has reimbursed companies – and continues to do so – for the temporary storage at power plants around the country.

A Blue Ribbon Commission of the Barack Obama administration determined that by 2020, the DOE will have spent $22 billion on those costs.

Consolidated interim storage is "really the quickest path for DOE to take title to the spent fuel and stop the lawsuit," Heaton said.

Richard Zuercher is a spokesman for Virginia-based Dominion Energy, which operated four U.S. nuclear power stations until 2013, when low natural gas prices caused the company to close its plant in Wisconsin.

All of the spent fuel from that facility is sitting on site in dry storage casks that cost around $1 million apiece, with a full-time security team in place.

"The government had promised to ultimately dispose of the fuel. That was a promise made to the communities that hosted these nuclear facilities," Zuercher said. "These facilities were not made to be permanent facilities."

Zuercher said Dominion’s view on interim storage falls in line with the Nuclear Energy Institute, which supports consolidated interim storage of spent fuel.

Rod McCullum, senior director of fuel and decommissioning at NEI, pointed out that, in many cases, nuclear power plants are decommissioned and the spent fuel on site is all that is keeping the sites from being repurposed.

Heaton has touted the proposed site as safe and secure, as well as being in close proximity to utilities and to rail lines, which is most likely how the spent fuel will be transported, because of its extreme weight.

Even if the project is licensed, though, there will still be a long road ahead.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act would need to be amended to allow waste to be transported to an interim site, but most of New Mexico’s congressional delegation has already expressed opposition to the project – at least until plans for permanent disposal are in place.

"I won’t support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal – whether the site is in southeastern New Mexico or anywhere else in the country – because that nuclear waste could be orphaned there indefinitely," Sen. Tom Udall said in a statement.

Fellow Democrats Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor this year, provided similar statements.

Republican Rep. Steve Pearce said any nuclear storage facility must come with "strong support by the communities that will host it."

The Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, intended to be a permanent repository for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, has largely languished since Obama pulled funding for the project in 2011.

A federal resolution that would amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to allow for interim storage was introduced in the House in June 2017 and is pending.

Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, voted against favorably reporting the legislation last year.

Another amendment to the NWPA introduced in January last year may provide a path toward funding the consolidated interim storage project.

The Nuclear Waste Fund, which once collected fees from utility companies to be used to fund a permanent repository, now contains nearly $40 billion.

House Resolution 474 would allow the funds to be used for a consolidated interim storage facility. It would also authorize the U.S. Department of Energy to take title of the spent fuel and to enter into contracts to create a consolidated interim storage facility.

That aside, many have expressed concerns about the safety risks involved in carting highly radioactive waste thousands of miles.

"It’s not safe, which is why the people who have it want to get rid of it," said Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program at Albuquerque’s Southwest Research and Information Center. "A lot of us believe in improving storage where it is."

Hancock also said the cost of building railroad tracks to connect the current storage sites and the Holtec site to existing railroads and other transportation costs would negate any savings proponents allege.

"The idea that it’s saving the taxpayers money isn’t true," Hancock said.

According to Holtec documents, the company estimates rail lines will cost $12.78 million.

But Hancock said not all existing railroads will be able to handle the weight of a loaded transport cask, which he said will weigh at least 371,000 pounds.

"Someone is going to have to invest a LOT more money than that to upgrade the railroads," he wrote in an email.

Bob Alvarez, a former senior policy adviser to the Secretary of Energy and board member of the Los Alamos Study group, said it’s also unclear what would need to be done before transporting the spent fuel.

Some of the casks, which have been sitting around for decades in some cases, may not be appropriate for transport and may require repackaging, which adds an additional price tag.

Alvarez said for some reactors, the cost of repackaging could be as much as $1 billion.

"There’s sort of an element of magical thinking on this stuff," he said.

Gov. Susana Martinez, the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs and Lea and Eddy counties have expressed support for the project and touted its potential economic benefits.

"I support the ELEA and its member cities and counties in their effort to establish a consolidated interim storage facility in southeastern New Mexico that will be regulated by the high safety and technical standards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," Martinez wrote in a 2015 letter to then-Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

But opposition does exist.

Rose Gardner of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies, who lives in Eunice, argued that New Mexico is home to no nuclear power plants; why should the state take responsibility for waste generated largely on the East Coast?

She’s also unconvinced of the safety of Holtec’s containment system.

Noel Marquez, a community artist who lives on a farm in Eddy County, said he believes the area’s poverty and low English proficiency rate has made it a target for facilities such as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which permanently houses low-level nuclear waste, and the one the Alliance and Holtec are proposing.

"If they don’t want the poison where it’s at, why would we want it?" Marquez said. "We feel threatened."

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Orano, WCS Aim to Revive Spent Fuel Storage Project

MARCH 14, 2018

BY EXCHANGEMONITOR

Nearly a year after putting it on ice, Waste Control Specialists aims to revive its application for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to build and operate a facility for consolidated interim storage of used fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors. It is doing so in a joint venture planned with Orano USA.

Establishment of the joint venture and a formal request to restart the NRC review are expected in the second quarter of this year, said Jeffery Isakson, vice president of business operations at Orano subsidiary TN Americas, who is working on the spent fuel storage project.

The plan remains to build a facility on Waste Control Specialists’ property in Andrews County, Texas, to temporarily hold up to 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel until the Department of Energy finds a permanent home for the radioactive waste.

In a joint press release, the companies touted the experience they will bring to the project: Orano’s (formerly AREVA) capabilities in fuel packaging, storage, and transportation, and Waste Control Specialists’ operation of a disposal facility for low-level radioactive and other waste forms from the commercial and government sectors. Isakson said he could not yet discuss details of what each company will provide operationally to the joint venture.

“When the NRC receives the WCS request to resume, the staff will develop a new schedule for continuing the review, publish a new notice of hearing on this license application, and re-open the environmental scoping period for 60 days using our established procedures for these activities,” NRC spokesman David McIntyre said by email Tuesday.

Waste Control Specialists first submitted its application in April 2016, in partnership with NAC International and AREVA. The NRC completed its acceptance review of the application in January 2017, but the company in April of that year asked that the regulator halt the full technical review ahead of WCS’ then-pending merger with EnergySolutions. A federal judge blocked that deal on antitrust grounds, and Waste Control Specialists was acquired in January by private equity firm J.F. Lehman.

Orano USA was previously AREVA Nuclear Materials prior to its parent company’s renaming in January

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

ELEA moves one step closer

NRC begins review on proposed nuke storage facility

March 04, 2018

Curtis Wynne
Hobbs News Sun

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday announced the beginning of a detailed safety, security and environmental review of a Holtec International’s application to store spent nuclear fuel from power plants at a temporary facility in between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

Holtec initially submitted the application for a license in late March 2017 and responded in December to the NRC’s July requests for further information. The company stated the NRC provided a preliminary schedule that envisages the issuance of license by July 2020. However, the date could be sooner if Holtec’s responses to the regulatory queries are timely and of high quality.

Accepting Holtec’s application as sufficiently complete, the commission said the proposal is ready to begin the technical review process that eventually involves expert testimony and public comment. During the past two years, local leaders and politicians, including Gov. Susana Martinez, have expressed support.

The 1,045-acre land on which Holtec proposes to construct the HI-STORE CIS (Consolidated Interim Storage) facility, on the Lea County side of the Eddy-Lea counties line, is owned by the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA). The alliance is a partnership between the cities of Hobbs and Carlsbad and the counties of Lea and Eddy.

The facility is a subterranean used nuclear fuel storage system with a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters. The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities which will cumulatively hold 8,680 metric tons (nominal) of fissile material.

Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb, a member of ELEA, said the NRC’s announcement is an indication of the quality of both the application and the applicant.

"Holtec has done everything they agreed to do in terms of the ELEA project," he said. "It’s a very good project for the long-term future of the community. It’s a lot of economic development and revenue stream opportunities for respective partners. I hope it continues to move forward positively."

John Heaton, the Carlsbad-based chairman of the ELEA board of directors noted a moral obligation to resolve a national problem.

"In this country, those of us that have specific assets like our remoteness and geologic stability have a moral obligation to step up and to help solve this exacerbating spent fuel problem," he said. "This project, by reducing the risk of presently stored materials in densely populated area, on the banks of major rivers, in highly seismic areas and on ocean fronts helps our country solve this festering problem."

Holtec is seeking an initial 40-year license for an underground storage facility that could accept radioactive-used fuel that is piling up at reactors across the United States.

The facility would be built to store spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s power plants until a permanent disposal facility is identified.

Cobb said the licensing process will involve the public extensively.

"It’s going to be an open and transparent process. There will be a lot of opportunities for our community to speak on behalf of the project or to speak against the project. The NRC will handle all of that," he said. "It will be publicized across the region and the state. We look forward to having that discussion and educating the public on the opportunity it presents and that we think the science supports the safety of the project."

Nuclear safety advocates warned of transportation risks associated with moving massive casks of spent nuclear fuel thousands of miles to New Mexico, and urged the public to speak up about the proposal.

"Up to now, it’s been Holtec talking to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the last 11 months," said Don Hancock, nuclear programs director for the Southwest Research and Information Center, an Albuquerque-based environmental protection group. "Now the public is going to be able to get involved."

The public already has. At the Feb. 20 Hobbs City Commission meeting, Cobb and the Hobbs commissioners listened to the objections of Hobbs residents.

"I do not consent to it," said Hobbs resident Byron Marshall. "After doing my due diligence, it has come to my attention that it is too much of a risk to the families and the community of Hobbs. The possibilities of a radiation leak, of an accident, of transporting … high-level nuclear waste … coming here via rail thousands of miles away, the transport route alone is a hazard that is unfathomable. But to bring it here and to call it a interim facility and saying that it is only going to be used temporarily until we find a final resolution for it is kind of bogus. Once it gets here, it’s not going anywhere else because no else wants it."

The idea of bringing high-level radiative waste to southeast New Mexico is a "game-changer" Marshall said.

"If once it does get finalized and it does get built here, I have to think about moving somewhere else," Marshal said. "I don’t want this place to be another Fukushima."

Recognizing this as a major step in the process, Heaton is confident the right decision will be made.

"The NRC is an extremely technical regulator that is not well known by the public, but it may be (one of) the toughest, if not the toughest, regulator in the U.S.," he said. "They are a no-nonsense regulator singularly focused on safety and security through licensing, construction and operation of any commercial nuclear project."

Also a member of the ELEA board, Lea County Chairman Ron Black appreciated the NRC’s announcement.

"That’s just a step in the process, but it’s progress," he said. "It just shows things are moving forward and Holtec is doing their due diligence."

Curtis Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews.com.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.