No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

Nuclear waste storage project opposed by many during public meeting

May 22nd, 2018

By Maddy Hayden / Journal Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal

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.

Signs protesting the Holtec interim storage project in southeast New Mexico rest on a table during a public meeting on the project hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday in Albuquerque. (Maddy Hayden/Journal)

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."

Former Journal reporter Denise Tessier, who said she covered the process that led to the construction of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in the 1970s and 1980s, contended the Holtec site violates promises made to the state back then by WIPP proponents.

"Throughout the years of discussions, New Mexico was told if we would accept low-level transuranic waste … we would not be asked to take high level nuclear waste in the future," Tessier said. "Bringing spent fuel rods into New Mexico is, in my view, a violation of the spirit of years of discussions and efforts that went into the opening of WIPP and that can and should factor into the rejection of the Holtec proposal."

During a meeting with Journal editors and reporters earlier in the day, Holtec officials and John Heaton, chairman of the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, which is partnering with Holtec on the project proposed for a site halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, expressed utmost confidence in the technology involved in the transport and storage of the spent nuclear fuel.

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)

"This is not Holtec’s first rodeo, so to speak," said Joy Russell, Holtec’s vice president of corporate business development.

Holtec constructed a similar, but much smaller, facility at the San Onofre nuclear power plant in California and was licensed to construct an interim facility in Utah, which never came to fruition. The company’s dry storage casks are used for around half of the current spent nuclear fuel awaiting disposal at more than 70 nuclear power plants around the country.

Holtec and the alliance also confronted concerns over the time frame of the project. Opponents and skeptics have worried that the "interim" site will become a de facto permanent repository.

"Everybody I speak to, they say if you move it here, it’s going to be here forever," Holtec project director Ed Mayer said. "That’s not the intent. We think it’ll be there for decades … but it won’t be there forever."

A permanent storage site, such as the beleaguered Yucca Mountain repository, is not expected to be complete until mid-century at best.

The New Mexico storage proposal is in the licensing phase with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Should the license be accepted, Mayer said the company hopes to begin construction in 2020 with the first shipment of spent nuclear fuel being accepted in 2023.

Contact the writer.

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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.

Planned repository for high-level nuclear waste in Lea County draws opposition

May 22, 2018

By Sarah Halasz Graham | sgraham@sfnewmexican.com
Santa Fe New Mexican

Danny Rupper applauds during public comments Tuesday at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting in Albuquerque. Craig Fritz/For The New Mexican.

ALBUQUERQUE — In a crowded hotel ballroom, a once-regional battle over New Mexico’s nuclear future evolved into a statewide showdown.

Dozens of concerned citizens and environmentalists took to the microphone at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Albuquerque on Tuesday night to voice their opposition to a project they said could put New Mexicans at risk of deadly radiation while further pigeonholing the state as the nation’s nuclear-waste graveyard.

At stake in the melee: The economy of one of New Mexico’s most profitable corners, the safety and security of the state’s residents — and the future of nuclear waste disposal in the United States.

Proponents of the plan — including Gov. Susana Martinez; U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; and a slew of downstate lawmakers, business owners and citizens — say the region’s geology is ideal for the proposed facility, and the economic benefits are well worth what they see as nearly nonexistent risks.

In March 2017, Holtec International, a Jupiter, Fla.-based energy technology company, submitted an application for a 40-year license to build and maintain what could be the nation’s largest interim repository for high-level nuclear waste.

If approved, the proposed 300-acre Lea County facility would house a vast cache of spent nuclear fuel rods from power plants nationwide.

The rods would be moved to the site in thousands of cross-country rail deliveries over the course of about 20 years — a process opponents of the plan said would put people at risk.

"For those concerned about security, that translates into thousands of opportunities for attacks or thefts of spent fuel," said Barney McGrath of the Santa Fe Democratic Party. Others worried about radiation leaks and derailments during transport.

"Each rail car is like the equivalent in plutonium of what got dropped on Nagasaki," said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based SEED Coalition, an advocacy group. "It’s not in bomb-grade form, but it’s huge."

State Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said that when it comes to the nuclear industry, New Mexico has "borne the brunt" for too long. He said the federal government has broken too many promises. "The idea that we are going to give a company, a for-profit company, the ability to handle uranium that is going to be radioactive and deadly for six million years … to me that seems ridiculous," McSorley said.

Holtec executives said the facility would generate about 100 temporary construction jobs and another 100 permanent positions with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $80,000 a year.

The host communities also would take home an incentive payment to be shared with the state.

About 200 people filled the hotel’s ballroom for the hearing held by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was the sixth meeting so far in the public comments stage of the application process. The NRC also has held forums in Gallup, Roswell, Hobbs, Carlsbad and Washington, D.C.

Of the more than 60 commenters, the vast majority voiced opposition to the project.

John Heaton, a former state representative from Carlsbad, is the chairman of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a coalition of the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs and Eddy and Lea counties. The group has partnered with Holtec to bring the site to fruition.

He said the waste would be packaged with "triple redundancies on any possible materials getting out."

Nuclear material would be housed in zirconium rods, which would be packaged in stainless steel canisters. Those would be contained in 15-inch-thick concrete transportation casks.

Holtec has applied for a license to store 8,680 metric tons of nuclear waste, but ultimately the facility could house 20 times that amount — more waste than has been generated in the history of the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Until now, plants have been storing their own waste in large concrete barrels. The federal government has deemed the waste safe to store for 60 years after a site is decommissioned, but proponents of the proposed short-term dump say the barrels aren’t safe, after all.

There are 60 active nuclear power plants in the U.S., most of them east of the Mississippi River. None are in New Mexico. Another 31 plants, some of which still house spent nuclear rods, already have been decommissioned.

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.

Nukes are no good for this area

May 15, 2018

Karen Howard-Winters Odessa, Letter to the Editor
Odessa American

I believe our livelihood is in great danger of becoming destroyed by a company named Holtec International. They have applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 40-year license for an interim High-Level Radioactive Nuclear Waste Facility to be built between Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico.

This is not the facility in Andrews. Although, now that Holtec has applied for their license, Waste Management Specialists (WCS) had placed their license request for the High-Level Radioactive Nuclear Waste on hold due to issues regarding the pending sale of their facility to Orano. However, now that the sale is complete and things have settled down, and they are watching what is going on with Holtec. Then, we fear, Orano is going to revise and reapply for a license requesting for the same as Holtec – high-level radioactive nuclear waste to be disposed of in the Andrews site, claiming it to be interim as well.

Why are we concerned and people in Midland and Odessa should be, too?

1.) This is the first time anything of this gravity has ever been attempted in this country!

(a) Radioactive waste has been moved around, but nothing remotely on this level of danger, nothing on this scope of magnitude and nothing on this level or for this interim duration.

(b) Our deep concern is that no permanent site has even been discussed yet!!

(c) By the time a "permanent" repository is found (which will probably be never) the canisters/casks will be too fragile to be moved due to deterioration from sun exposure/weathering or just time in general and the site will become a de facto permanent disposal site and another Super Fund site that New Mexico will have to try to maintain forever.

2.) The Holtec site is on top of our Permian Basin oil reserves sitting directly on top of the Delaware Basin and our Olgalla Aquifer and don’t let any tell you they’re not as the old maps tell you they are.

3.) This deadly waste is responsible for cancers, genetic birth defects and deaths as witnessed in the Tulrosa Basin Downwinders Claims after the atomic bomb experiments at the Los Alamos experimental site prior to the dropping of the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended WWII. The town of Trinity was never advised of these trials and the fallout affected the towns’ people with all kinds of different cancers that no one had ever had
before.

4.) This radioactive waste (even though they tell you it is in solid form and is more easily handled), is to be sent here by rail coming through Odessa. If that train wrecks on Faudree and Hwy 80 would have contained nuclear waste, it would have taken out the Odessa Country Club Golf Course and some of the richest real estate in Odessa as the land will become unusable for 25,000 years or more.

5.) What’s going to happen if an accident leaves the land unable to be used for drilling for oil? The Fasken Oil Company came to Roswell to testify in front of the NRC to say that this is a bad idea and vowed to do everything they can to round up all the people in the Permian Basin Oil Industry to fight this licensing.

6.) One of the Midland commissioners flew in to Roswell and brought not only Fasken Oil, but a rancher from one of the big area ranches who have been in Midland County for over 102 years who has vowed to fight this with fellow ranchers.

7.) One railcar contains the same amount of plutonium as was dropped on Nagasaki.

8) The land on which they have proposed to build this site is geologically unstable and there is a study out by Southern Methodist University (SMU) that, like Winkler County, has a danger of the random occurrence sinkholes at anytime, anywhere. http://blog.smu.edu/research/2018/03/20/radar-images-show-large-swath-of-texas-oil-patch-is-heaving-and-sinking-at-alarming-rates/

9.) Holtec wants to bring 100,000 metric tons of this high-level radioactive nuclear waste through Odessa over 20 years after they are licensed. Dallas, Midland and San Antonio city councils have already made resolutions prohibiting railcars from coming through their towns and exposing the citizens of their towns to this deadly radioactive waste. Every time a railcar passes by an area, it releases radiation. Cumulative effects could result in birth defects to a fetus as a pregnant woman is exposed to this waste by sitting on a railcar platform waiting to go to work every day as
these railcars pass by.

10.) The site can be seen from the air and is a beautiful target for terrorists during transit and after arrival at the site. All it would take is a suicide plane to hit this site and it would be worse than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Holtec is talking about bringing 100,000 metric tons of spent plutonium to the site for a total of 10,000 partially buried canisters of spent fuel rods.

12) If radiation sullies our water or our oil, we might as well, just throw in the towel and move out as our property will have no value at all.

If we lose our oil or water, we lose our city.

If you do not consent to NRC licensing Holtec for this project, please voice your dissent!

The NRC Scoping Period for this Project ends May 29! You may request, no, demand that they extend the Scoping Period to more cities so more people may voice their opinions. The people along the train routes, Midland, Odessa, Albuquerque, El Paso, Dallas, etc. You may demand they extend the Scoping Period time for an additional three to six months.

This is too important for only two months of scoping and only three public hearings in only three towns!

Moving High-Level Nuclear radioactive waste across the nation to a temporary site when no permanent site has been found is unnecessary and irresponsible. The only winner in this is a private company named Holtec. The people of Eddy and Lea Counties who want this project and are being paid a pittance are not winners as they will be stuck with a Super Fund site forever.

If you would like to voice your opinion, you have until May 29 to write to the NRC at:

May Ma
Office of Administration
Mail Stop: TWNF-7-A60M
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 2055-0001

Nuclear waste could be headed to West Texas under house bill

May 10, 2018

Houston Chronicle

A caution sign surrounding the low-level radioactive waste site at Waste Control Specialists (WCS) near Andrews, Texas. 
A caution sign surrounding the low-level radioactive waste site at Waste Control Specialists (WCS) near Andrews, Texas.  Photo: Kin Man Hui, Houston Chronicle Staff

WASHINGTON – Radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the country could be headed to West Texas under legislation passed by the House today.

The legislation, which passed 340 to 72, directs Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to find interim storage sites for the growing stockpile of waste at the nation’s nuclear power plants, while also restarting the licensing process for a controversial permanent storage facility in Nevada, at the Yucca Mountain site.

Finding communities willing to take the radioactive waste has proven hugely difficult in the past, but one option available to Perry would be an existing hazardous waste site in Andrews County in West Texas, where Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists is proposing to store spent nuclear fuel until a permanent storage facility is completed.

RELATED STORY: Tensions reignite over West Texas nuclear waste storage

The legislation, which was introduced last year by Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., has passed in similar form in past Congresses but has so far failed to win support in the Senate. At issue are concerns from communities surrounding potential storage sites, as well as criticism from environmentalists who argue transporting the waste to multiple sites is simply too dangerous.

"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.

Within the Texas congressional delegation, Republicans nearly unanimously voted for the bill while the Democrats split, with Rep. Beto O’Rourke, of El Paso, who is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz in the midterms, and Rep. Al Green, of Houston, among those opposed.

WCS announced earlier this year it was partnering with the French energy giant Orano, which has a long history of managing and storing nuclear waste in France. That nation operates more nuclear reactors than any country in the world besides the United States.

WCS and Orano have since notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission they plan to resume the licensing process, which WCS suspended last year due to financial concerns, said Thomas Graham, a spokesman for the joint venture.

"Nuclear fuel management has been successfully addressed for more than 60 years without any industrial accidents," he said. "The processes that are in place are redundant and thorough."

But West Texas is not the only region being targeted for nuclear waste.

Holtec International, the New Jersey-based equipment supplier, has proposed a storage site in southeast New Mexico to store 120,000 tons of nuclear waste, according to the non-profit Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The NRC is reviewing that application and is currently staging a series of public meetings in New Mexico to discuss the proposal.

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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.

Congress keen on N.M. interim storage, locals not so much

May 9, 2018

Sam Mintz
E&E News reporter

Holtec  interim storage site
Holtec interim storage site.Photo credit: Holtec International

An artist’s rendering of Holtec International’s proposed interim nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico. Holtec International

In Washington, D.C., many lawmakers are excited about commercial interim nuclear waste storage facilities, which they see as a way to move spent fuel away from reactors around the country and store it temporarily until a long-debated permanent repository comes to fruition.

But on the ground in southeast New Mexico, where a company called Holtec International and a coalition of local officials have proposed building such an interim storage operation on a 1,000-acre site between Hobbs and Carlsbad, opponents say it does not add up.

Holtec is the farthest along of the two companies looking for licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Three years after first introducing its plan, the NRC is now two months into what will likely be a multiyear review process.

The regulator held three meetings in the state last week in Roswell, Hobbs and Carlsbad. Opponents and supporters of the project both tried to use those gatherings to their advantage.

Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the group Southwest Research and Information Center, said Holtec critics were aiming to "demolish the idea that New Mexico consents" to the plan.

Consent is a murky issue with the project, as it has been with other nuclear waste proposals. Reports suggest Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is in favor. The truth may be more complicated, say critics.

"The idea that state government supports this is not true," said Hancock. "It’s old and not specific."

Martinez wrote a general letter of support years ago before the details of Holtec’s proposal were available, he said. And the state’s environment secretary was at the meetings last week but did not weigh in.

Aides for Martinez, who is term-limited, did not respond to an E&E News request for comment about her current stance on the waste proposal.

Also, while both chambers of the state Legislature passed resolutions in 2016 supporting the project, more recently 30 legislators, including the initial House resolution’s sponsor, wrote to the NRC expressing concerns with safety and asking for more time for the state to examine the proposal.

‘Sacrifice zone’

Then there’s local and indigenous consent.

Leona Morgan, an organizer with the Albuquerque-based Nuclear Issues Study Group, said the proposal is a form of environmental racism. "We think other people view New Mexico as a sacrifice zone," she said.

And people are unable to consent to a project they do not know about, Morgan said. "We’ve done outreach in several communities in New Mexico and at public events, and I would say about 90 percent of the population we’ve been speaking to has no knowledge of this project," she said.

" The government is really not doing a good job at public notice," Morgan said. " It’s ridiculous to think that New Mexico consents to this when a lot of New Mexicans have no knowledge of it."

Beyond consent, opponents also question the key premises behind the project. "If storage is safe at the reactor sites, which is what NRC and the industry says, why do you need to move it?" said Hancock.

" And if it’s not safe at the reactor sites, why is it going to be safe somewhere else and how could it be safe to transport it?" he said.

Then there’s the fact that New Mexico has no nuclear power plants itself. "Thirty-four states do have commercial power plants or spent fuel. Why do none of those 34 states want to keep it?" Hancock said.

‘Unequivocal support’

For its part, Holtec has talked up its consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) design and downplayed the opposition.

The company said last week that the NRC " found unequivocal support from local elected officials, community leaders, members of the public, and university students."

"Joining the few local dissenters were activists from Texas and California whose opposition lacked clarity and specificity," Holtec said in a statement.

"Displaying utmost poise in the face of interruptions from activists, the NRC officials listened to all speakers to help define the scope of their ongoing environmental review," the company said.

The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, the coalition of area leaders that owns the project site, also says Holtec’s design is safe and that the project would bring economic benefits to the region.

Besides the license approval from the NRC, the Department of Energy would also need authorization from Congress to move waste to the proposed facility.

A bill from Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) up for a vote in the House tomorrow would, along with advancing the proposed permanent repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, provide that authorization for the interim storage (E&E Daily, May 9).

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.