No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

"We Don’t Want It "Says Group Concerned about Potential Radioactive Waste Impacts on Health, Safety and Existing Industries

For Immediate Release

April 30th 2018

For more information contact:
Karen Hadden – 512-797-8481 Karendhadden@gmail.com
Gene Harbaugh 575-361-2245 gene.harbaugh@gmail.com
Jimi Gadzia 575-317-9110 jgadzia@cableone.net
Noel Marquez 575-626-9306 marquezarts@yahoo.com

(Roswell, NM) A press conference held today at Eastern New Mexico University in Roswell featured speakers concerned about the health, safety and financial impacts of a controversial high-level radioactive waste storage project, proposed for a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad. The NRC will host an open house there today from 4-7 pm and a public meeting from 7-10 pm which will include public comment.

Holtec seeks "interim" storage of the nation’s deadly high-level radioactive waste, which they hope will be for 120 years. An unsafe de facto permanent dump site could be created and the waste might never move again if there is no political will or inadequate funding in the future. The company plans to transport 10,000 canisters of irradiated reactor fuel rods from around the county and store them near the surface in New Mexico, inviting disaster and creating massive risks. This is more waste than has been created by all U.S. nuclear reactors to date.

"The New Mexico dairy industry currently has a total economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually, second only to oil and gas revenues in economic impact to our state," said dairy owner and operator Al Squire. "The dairy industry currently provides employment for nearly 6,000 people directly and over 17,000 related jobs. A contamination event that released radionuclides into our towns or farmland, irrigation and drinking water, or into the air that we and our animals breathe could cause serious disruption of our ability to market highly perishable dairy products. An entire industry could be destroyed in the midst of widespread consumer panic that would most certainly follow such an accident."

"If the waste comes here it might never move again. We could get stuck with an inadequate de facto permanent dump, not designed for the long-term, creating potential for disaster," said Pastor Emeritus Gene Harbaugh, founder of Citizen’s with Questions in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Furthermore, the rail line infrastructure in this region is in poor condition, so transporting the very heavy dangerous waste would come with huge risks. Who would pay for infrastructure improvements and at what cost?"

"My family and I own and operate Graham Farms, a 100-acre pecan arm here in Roswell that we started in 1965, said Roswell native Jimi Gadzia. "Just the proximity of this deadly high-level radioactive waste to our food crops could devastate our industry. Any leakage or accident could threaten our farm, our crop and our very way of life."

"As an oilman, I am very concerned about the effect of a leak, whether accidental or through terrorism, on the oil and gas industry. No one would want radioactive oil, and no one would want to work in an area contaminated by radiation," said Randy Prude, a Midland oilman and County Commissioner. "Midland County Texas passed a resolution opposing the risky transport of high-level radioactive waste through our county. I invite New Mexico counties to join with Dallas, Bexar, Nueces and Midland Counties and Lake Arthur, New Mexico by passing similar resolutions and sending them to the NRC."

"Our lands are not the nation’s dumping ground for dangerous high-level radioactive waste, which brings risks for cancers, birth defects and deaths. Those who created the waste should take responsibility for it." said Noel Marquez an artist from Artesia and co-founder of Alliance for Environmental Strategies, based in Southeast New Mexico. "It would be an extreme environmental and economic injustice for the rest of the nation to dump deadly radioactive waste on New Mexico. We’ve already been burdened with the contamination from uranium mining, processing, weapons and radioactive dumping that has been carried on the backs of New Mexico’s native peoples, affecting their health and lands. Now Holtec want to continue the contamination in the southeast area and Texas border area where the Hispanic population is the majority."

Pecan farming has annual revenues of over $213 million in the state. Chavez County alone produced over 4 million pounds of pecans. Tourism in Chavez county creates $158 million in revenue employing 4,660 of 12.6% of the workforce in 2015. In Lea County tourism accounted for $186 million in revenue, employing 6,000 or 10.85% of the workforce. Eddy and Lea Counties are the two richest oil and gas producing counties in the country. The industry employs over 8,600 people. Why risk more than 20 thousand existing jobs for 55 jobs at a dangerous radioactive waste storage site?" asked Jimi Gadzia.

"There is everything to lose with the plan to bring the nation’s high-level radioactive waste to New Mexico. The risks to health, safety, security and financial well-being are immense and people need to act now to stop this massive mistake that imperils people in New Mexico as well as along transport routes throughout the country," said Karen Hadden, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

People should speak up at the public meeting tonight at 7 the Eastern New Mexico University Campus Union building, in Hobbs on May 1st at the Lea County Events Center and on May 3rd at the Eddy County Fire service training center. Comments can be submitted to the NRC until May 29, 2018.

More information can be found at NoNuclearWaste.org

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Public Meeting on Proposed Lea Co. Interim Nuke Storage Site Slated for Tuesday

April 27, 2018

Seminole Sentinel

HOBBS, N.M. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will meet and take public comments on a proposed interim nuclear storage waste site in western Lea County.
The NRC team will be in Hobbs at the Lea County Event Center on Tuesday evening, May 1 from 7-10 p.m. MST.

Another NRC public meeting the proposed Holtec interim storage site will be in Carlsbad on May 3 at the Eddy County Fire Service.

Meanwhile, opponents of the project are rallying their forces, including public meetings and a scheduled mock cask tour.

Holtec applied for a license initially to store 500 canisters, about 8,680 metric tons, of spent nuclear fuel, radioactive fissile material, from the nation’s commercial power plants until the federal government can establish a permanent disposal site.

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 planned facility, located roughly 70 miles south, southwest of the Seminole community, is a subterranean storage system with a maximum storage capacity of 10,000 canisters, a total of more than 100,000 metric tons.

Waste Control Specialists submitted similar plans in 2016 for a smaller facility in Andrews County, not far from the New Mexico border.

The licensing process could take years, and it’s unclear how discussions of reviving the mothballed disposal site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain could affect the proposals for temporary storage.

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.

Interim nuclear waste storage facility moves closer to opening, despite critics

March 2, 2018

Adrian C Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel waste could be buried beneath southeast New Mexico.

An interim nuclear waste storage facility proposed between Eddy and Lea counties began the permitting process that could ultimately see the site come into service by 2022.

Holtech International’s underground consolidated interim storage facility (CIS) would store spent nuclear fuel rods underground, taken from decommissioned nuclear power plants around the country via train, and held until they can be transported to a permanent repository.

In total, Holtech’s initial application calls for the storage of 8,680 metric tons of uranium from commercial spent nuclear fuel during a 40-year license term – the first phase of the project.

In a Wednesday letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Holtech’s application, submitted in March 2017, was accepted.

The acceptance began the permitting process and authorized NRC staff to begin a "detailed safety, security and environmental review of the project."

The first round of requests for additional information (RAIs) needed for the review will continue from March to August, the letter read, with an option for additional requests until February 2019.

Per the letter, NRC staff expects to complete its reviews by July 2020.

In total, the review process was expected to cost about $7.5 million, records show.

"It’s really demonstrating the commitment of Holtec and the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance to move forward with this facility," said Joy Russell, Vice President of Corporate Business Development and Communications at Holtec, of the application.

NRC staff plan to contact Holtech to schedule future public hearings on the project, the letter read, to discuss the review and expectations for Holtech staff during the process.

"The proposed schedule assumes that Holtech will provide timely and high-quality RAI responses within 60 days of the of the receipt of each individual RAI letter," read the letter.

John Heaton, chair of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), an organization formed to oversee the early stages of the facility’s development, said he thinks the project could be complete by 2022.

"This is the first really big step," Heaton said. "We’re going through the application process. It will be a very public process."

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, first suggested an interim storage facility for spent nuclear in 2012, records show, aiming to move the waste away from several decommissioned nuclear power plants around the country, to be held until a permanent repository is available.

A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratories showed an interim storage site could save the U.S. Treasury $15 billion by 2040, $30 billion by 2050, and $54 billion by 2060.

Heaton said the sooner the project is finished, the more money it could save American tax payers.

"It was more economical to have one facility," he said. "All of the issues, the research, were resources for recommending a single site."

‘A bad idea everywhere’

"The plan proposed by Holtec would dump the entire nation’s high-level radioactive waste in New Mexico, creating huge risks and a massive burden for the people of our state. This is clearly an environmental injustice as New Mexico is a predominately Hispanic, Native American, people of color state."
Rose Gardner, Eunice resident

Critics of the project cited the danger of transporting what could be volatile nuclear waste, and worried about the environmental impact of burying spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico.

"The U.S. must minimize movement of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors, not ship it into rural New Mexico through heavily populated areas and many low-income communities," said John Buchser, Water Committee chair for the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. "This proposal endangers New Mexicans."

Don Hancock, nuclear programs director at the Southwest Research and Information Center said the proposal involves shipping more radioactive material in a shorter time than past proposals for the DOE’s Yucca Mountain site, a permanent repository proposed to be established in Nevada and hold up to $63,000 metric tons of spent fuel.

A DOE study, Hancock said, suggested the proposed disposal at Yucca Mountain could cause 160 to 180 latent cancer deaths among transportation workers, and up to 110 traffic fatalities.

The CIS, he said, could end up holding up to 100,000 metric tons.

"Because the Holtec proposal is for significantly more waste being shipped (than Yucca Mountain) in a shorter time period, even more fatalities are likely," he said.

Hancock said the project was not only a problem for New Mexico, but the concept of a privately operated interim storage facility was a "bad idea" everywhere.

He suggested storing the fuel at the reactor sites where it was originally spent.

"These things are uneconomical, they’re dangerous, and they’re unnecessary," Hancock said of interim storage facilities. "If the facility can store the fuel at Holtech, it can be stored anywhere, including where it already is. What does it tell you that the people who have it, don’t want to keep it?"

"The plan proposed by Holtec would dump the entire nation’s high-level radioactive waste in New Mexico, creating huge risks and a massive burden for the people of our state. This is clearly an environmental injustice as New Mexico is a predominately Hispanic, Native American, people of color state."

The CIS would add to truck traffic in southeast New Mexico, he said, further burdening the area’s already crowded industrial traffic.

An accidental release of radiation at the site could also impact the area’s booming oil and gas industry, Hancock said, by sending radiation underground as extraction operations drill down for oil and natural gas.

Putting the radioactive material on rail cars could also create a danger of contamination for the potash industry, which transports the ore via rail car from the mines in southern Eddy County.

"If you’re transporting things around, there will be accidents whether there is a radiological release or not,” Hancock said. “It could be really disastrous for the future and current economy."

The safest in the world?

Heaton called any challenges to the safety of transporting the fuel a "boondoggle."

He said transportation concerns for the CIS are the same as initial opposition voiced when the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), an underground repository for transuranic nuclear waste about 26 miles from Carlsbad, first began operations.

The American Nuclear Society hosted its annual conference in Carlsbad from Sept. 10 to 15. Hundreds of scientists attended the conference and presented work from their facilities. Wochit

All those fears, Heaton said, were proved wrong.

"We had these same concerns when WIPP opened. It’s just not the case. The idea that you shouldn’t move (nuclear waste) is a complete fallacy. This idea of leaving it where it is makes no sense at all," Heaton said.

Lea County Manager Michael Gallagher said he is confident in the NRC’s review of the project to ensure it’s safe execution and ongoing operations.

He said the facility would augment the region’s nuclear corridor, including WIPP near Carlsbad, and URENCO’s nuclear enrichment facility in Eunice.

"The proposed project, I think, compliments and is consistent with some of our other nuclear businesses in the area," Gallagher said. "This is an opportunity for our economy to diversify, and have more employment opportunities."

Gallagher said he would rely on experts in the nuclear field to determine and ensure the safety of the facility when it goes into service.

"I’m confident the NRC will review the project," he said. "I have no reasons to think the project wouldn’t be safe. We will look forward to the response, and the review the NRC will have of the project."

"We have a lot of professionals in the area with experience in nuclear."

How does it work?

In total, Holtech’s CIS could hold up to 10,000 canisters of spent fuel, each containing about 12 metric tons each.

Housing the 120,000 metric tons of waste would take up about 500 of the property’s 1,000 acres – about 35 miles east of Carlsbad, intending to provide a buffer zone between the waste and property line.

Emplacing the spent fuel begins by digging a pit about 30 feet underground.

Next, a 3-foot-thick slab of reinforced concrete is poured into the pit, and 18-foot tall containers are bolted to the slab.

High-flow concrete is then poured into the pit and through the containers until the concrete is 3 feet from the top of the containers.

Then, another 3-foot concrete slab is poured onto the surface.

The fuel rods are emplaced in the vaults via canisters made of steel and weighing about 4 tons.

Inside, radioactive rods will cool naturally via convection.

More: WIPP air system to cost about $400M, complete by 2022

In total, Heaton estimated the entire facility would take 10 years to construct, employing up to 300 workers from the local area for a decade.

"It’s just a very good system," he said of the CIS. "It’s one of the safest that is available in the world. We didn’t chose who did this lightly. (Holtech is) absolutely the best."

And the NRC will continue to monitor the facility’s operations once it comes into service, Heaton said, through a "robust" process.

"The NRC is a very tough regulator," he said. "They’re also involved in construction and the operation’s oversight."

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden(at)currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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.

Proposed nuclear storage site debate heats up; Activists plan news conference today in Roswell

April 11, 2018

By Lisa Dunlap
Roswell Daily Record

A Consolidated Interim Storage Facility is planned for Lea County, halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs.
A Consolidated Interim Storage Facility is planned for Lea County, halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs. A group opposing the site due to concerns about risks involved are holding a news conference in Roswell today. Government officials are holding a public meeting here April 30. (Submitted Graphic)

The effort by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) LLC and Holtec International to build a $2.4 billion interim underground storage site about halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs has become a lightning rod for debate during the past few years.

ELEA Chairman John Heaton has said the project, which is planned to open in 2022, will bring in millions of dollars a year in revenues, about 150 permanent jobs and federal monies for roads and other public project improvements. He said it also meets an urgent national need and that the fuel rods do not represent a significant danger, as they will be more than 30 years old when shipped, meaning their radioactive elements will have largely been depleted. He also said that Holtec has 30 years of experience developing such sites.

"We think it is needed nationally and, because of WIPP (the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad) and UNRECO (the uranium enrichment facility in Eunice) in our area, we have developed somewhat of a nationalistic spirit in our communities, recognizing the need to solve some of the problems that are costing taxpayers billions," said Heaton in a December interview. "We think it is a good, clean, safe industry for our area. It is temporary. The spent fuel will eventually be removed to a depository."

Critics contend that the site poses an unnecessary risk of environmental damage and public health risks, not only at the site itself but in other cities, as the canisters carrying the rods move over railways and roads.

In 2016, economic development leaders and business leaders in Eddy and Lea counties began working on their idea for the site, which the official site applications say will hold up to 8,680 tons of used nuclear fuel rods in large canisters stored in an underground facility, with the rods shipped by train and trucks from nuclear plants in the United States. The plans call for the used rods to be stored at the site for about 40 years until a permanent disposal site is developed.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission deemed the group’s application complete and acceptable for detailed review Feb. 28. Now the agency is holding a series of meetings in the region to seek public comments about what issues should be considered so that the required federal Environmental Impact Statement can be developed.

The Roswell meeting by the commission is scheduled for 4 p.m., April 30 in the Campus Union Building on the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus. Meetings are also planned in Hobbs and Carlsbad for early May.

Opponents with the Halt Holtec Coalition, meanwhile, are staging news conferences Wednesday and today in southeastern New Mexico, with participants carrying a large inflatable cask symbolizing the canisters. They have held and are planning other events in the state this spring.

"There will be 10,000 shipments of this dangerous, deadly waste headed out to the Holtec site," said coalition member Tom "Smitty" Smith. "Our hope is to have people think about whether they want this waste moving through their communities."

He said railway accidents have occurred, and cleanup of nuclear materials would cost millions. In a worst-case scenario, he said, people could be exposed to what he called deadly radioactive waste if a canister were to rupture.

The coalition’s Roswell event is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Anderson Contemporary Museum of Art, 409 E. College Blvd.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622–7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02(at)@rdrnews.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.

Activists protest nuclear storage proposal

April 13, 2018

By Trevier Gonzalez
Roswell Daily Record

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of special projects at Public Citizen’s Texas office, speaks with KOB 4 Eyewitness News
Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of special projects at Public Citizen’s Texas office, speaks with KOB 4 Eyewitness News reporter Casey Torres in front of a mock radioactive waste canister at the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art during a news conference Thursday morning. Smith, along with other citizens, argued against Holtec International’s plan to store nuclear waste at a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad. Trevier Gonzalez Photo

An inflated mock-up of a radioactive waste canister was at the center of a news conference held in front the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art Thursday morning.

In front of the 8-by-16-foot mock canister, activists from near and far spoke to the media about a controversial plan to store nuclear reactor waste at a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

The Halt Holtec Coalition’s tour, opposing Holtec International’s plans for an interim storage site, was led by Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of special projects at Public Citizen’s Texas office.

"Our friends on the other side keep talking about how many jobs are gonna be created," Smith told the Daily Record before the conference. "Really, when you look at the very bottom line, it’s 55 workers is what you’re gonna have total — not the hundreds they’re talking about."

Melanie Deason, a local activist in Roswell, referenced a radar-imaging analysis from Southern Methodist University

"They’re saying the ground movement we’re seeing is not normal across a 4,000 square mile area of West Texas," Deason said. "These hazards — and I’m quoting — of shifting and sinking ground represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams and oil and gas pipelines, plus potential pollution of groundwater.

"Common sense, science and fiscal responsibility recognize the obvious: sinkhole country is no place for Holtec to store America’s most dangerous nuclear reactor waste. I say, don’t jeopardize New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, and most important, don’t waste New Mexico."

Smith spoke reiterated the idea that bringing nuclear waste to the New Mexico area is not a good idea.

"Fundamentally, bringing high-level radioactive waste to southeast New Mexico for storage is a dumb idea for a number of reasons," Smith said. "There’s going to be significant risk bringing casks like this down the railroad track from all over the country, through New Mexico, through Roswell and Carlsbad, and then out to the wayside."

Smith said that if the proposal does go through, the waste is supposed to be eventually sent off to a high-level radioactive waste repository underground.

"The nuclear age began in the 40s," Smith explained. "We still haven’t figured out what that repository is or where to put this stuff, so why do we believe that somehow, magically, we’re going to find a high-level radioactive waste repository and that once it’s here, it’s out of sight, out of mind."

Smith said there will be an opportunity to learn more about the situation and comment on April 30. That’s the date of a public hearing at EMU-Roswell’s Campus Union Building, Room 110, from 4-7 p.m.

A meeting in Hobbs is set for 7 p.m on May 1 at the Lea County Event Center. Lastly, a hearing will also be held on May 3 at the Eddy County Fire Service Training Division at 7 p.m.

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews(at)rdrnews.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.