No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

New Nuclear Energy and Fuel Waste Storage Facilities Emerging Near Carlsbad?

March 26, 2018

Adrian C Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Nuclear war

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, Nuclear War, cyber attacks and environmental disasters lead the record of man-made threats to international stability. Veuer’s Chandra Lanier has the story.

A repository for spent nuclear fuel rods was proposed to be built in west Texas, even as a southeast New Mexican consortium hopes for a similar facility near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Orano USA, a subsidiary of France-based global nuclear energy company Orano – previously known as Areva, announced a joint venture with Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to bring a consolidated interim storage (CIS) facility to Andrews, Texas.

A CIS facility is used to store the spent nuclear fuel rods temporarily, while a permanent repository is built.

The rods are presently being stored at their generator sites: active and decommissioned nuclear reactor facilities around the country.

Proposed location of the Holtec/ELEA Underground Consolidated Interim Storage Facility. (Photo: courtesy map)

The move would augment WCS’ 14,000-acre facility in west Texas, which is licensed for low-grade nuclear waste, but not for spent nuclear fuel.

The United States does not have a permanent repository, after the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain project in Nevada stalled under the administration of former U.S. President Barrack Obama.

The joint venture, known as Interim Storage Partners, requested on March 13 that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resume reviewing the project’s license application, originally submitted in April 2016, and put on hold due to a funding shortfall.

"The joint venture will provide safety, flexibility and value for used nuclear fuel titleholders and reduce U.S. taxpayer liabilities for ongoing storage, while plans for a permanent federal repository continue," said Orano USA Chief Executive Officer Sam Shakir.

In total, the facility would hold about 40,000 metric tons of the waste, stored above ground and accepted in 5,000-ton phases, records show.

Officials predicted it could begin accepting waste by 2021.

"This industry-driven near-term solution will use proven storage technology and procedures to expand the capabilities and operations at the WCS site to include consolidated interim storage of commercial used nuclear fuel."

Competition to the west?

Meanwhile, Holtech International and the Eddy/Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) proposed building a new facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs to hold about 120,000 metric tons of similar waste.

The project’s application for the first 8,680 metric tons was accepted for review last month by the NRC, and officials expect it could open by 2022.

Chair of ELEA John Heaton said there’s enough waste to go around, but a facility in New Mexico is essential to the state’s growing nuclear corridor.

"When we started our project, we knew this was also a potential project for WCS," Heaton said. "We had anticipated they would get back into CIS activity. From our perspective, there’s a lot of waste out there. Lots of spent fuel. There may be other competitors."

(Photo: Holtec International)
A rendering of what Holtec International’s interim nuclear waste repository would look like if completed. (Photo: Holtec International)

Heaton pointed to WCS’s location, close to Eunice and New Mexico’s eastern border with Texas. He said such a facility in Texas would burden New Mexico’s roads and infrastructure without any benefit to New Mexicans, such as jobs and tax revenue.

"It’s clearly important to New Mexico to have our facility in place," Heaton said. "If WCS is the only one in place, New Mexico has all the responsibility. (The facility) is clearly more of responsibility of New Mexico, and Texas gets all the benefits."

Any emergencies at either facility, Heaton argued, would be responded to by New Mexican law enforcement and New Mexico emergency personnel, regardless of the state line.

"It won’t be Andrews that responds," Heaton said. "It will be New Mexico that does. Politicians should be very interested in where the project is."

The safety and security at Holtech’s proposed site would also be superior that pf WCS, Heaton said.

"I don’t think the WCS project even holds a candle to ours," he said. "We have the safest, most secure system in the world. Our project is so superior, I can’t imagine anyone would choose WCS over Holtech. We’re pressing on."

And until a permanent repository can be developed, Heaton said CIS is essential to the nuclear security of the United States.

"CIS is desperately needed in this country right now," he said. "Yucca is probably two or three decades away, even if they decide to move forward with it."

"There are specific differences, but the fundamental problems are the same," Hancock said. "Both of these are bad projects that shouldn’t go forward. We don’t have spent nuclear fuel in Texas or New Mexico, and we don’t need it."
– Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Program Director at the Southwest Research and Information Center

But critics aren’t convinced interim storage, and the needed transportation of the waste, is necessary ahead of a permanent repository.

Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque said the spent fuel should be left where it is.

He said the waste can be safely stored at the generator sites, until a permanent repository is opened.

"I think they’re both equally bad, dangerous and uneconomic," Hancock said. "All the things that are wrong with Holtech are wrong with WCS. We don’t need consolidated storage, we’re already storing the waste at or near the generator sites."

Logistically, Hancock said the WCS site makes more sense, as it would use existing infrastructure, and is near active train tracks.

The WCS facility is also already open, he argued, and is storing lower-grade waste. He also pointed to heavy oil and gas development around Hobbs and Carlsbad, creating risks for Holtech’s underground storage system.

"There are specific differences, but the fundamental problems are the same," Hancock said. "Both of these are bad projects that shouldn’t go forward. We don’t have spent nuclear fuel in Texas or New Mexico, and we don’t need it."

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@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.

Holtec arrives at City Council

August 22, 2018

By Alison Penn
Roswell Daily Record

Roswell meeting on Holec proposal.
Elizabeth Gilbert and Councilors Savino Sanchez and Jacob Roebuck sit at the table of the large conference room as Nick Maxwell shares his opinion on the Holtec International Project on Wednesday afternoon during the General Services Committee meeting. (Alison Penn Photo)

Citizens share opposition or ask city to remain neutral

Editor’s note: This story has been changed to correct the dollar amount associated with the proposed Holtec facility’s construction.

The city of Roswell’s General Services Committee lent their ears to citizen opinions on the proposed Holtec International Project to store nuclear waste in between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Around 30 people gathered into the large conference room at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon for an hour and a half meeting. The agenda included the Holtec project as a non-action item; no formal action was taken by the city at Wednesday’s meeting.

Chairman Councilor Savino Sanchez made a preamble asking the public to maintain decorum and remain respectful during the speeches. Committee members Jacob Roebuck and Angela Moore were present and Councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Judy Stubbs and Caleb Grant sat in the audience.

Councilor Juan Oropesa was the only councilor who shared his opinion on the matter. Oropesa referenced the city of Albuquerque’s vote to approve a resolution opposing Holtec, which he called a "dangerous project." Lake Arthur City Council also passed a resolution in opposition to the nuclear waste storage and its transportation on the state’s railroad tracks and highways. Oropesa shared his concerns about the waste traveling through Roswell due to a recent railroad derailment and another in Artesia a few years ago.

Oropesa said Mayor Dennis Kintigh has proposed a meeting with Holtec personnel to speak to the council. Oropesa said his original intention was to introduce a resolution in opposition — but added he wanted it to just be on the table for discussion since the other meeting has been planned.

The HI-STORE CIS $2.4 billion underground site on 1,000 acres would be interim storage for 8,860 metric tons of nuclear fuel for 40 years (with potential to extend longer) between Carlsbad and Hobbs. According to previous coverage, the project was approved in June 2016 by Hobbs and Carlsbad and their respective counties Lea and Eddy counties, while Holtec International and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) submitted their application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The fuel would be transported by the railway to the site until a permanent site is created.

The proposers claim Holtec would assist in infrastructure and other benefits to the economy, but the project has drawn opposition from many environmental activists and other citizens. Various meetings dedicated to the Holtec conversation have been held since the beginning of the year in the southeast region. On the Roswell level, a meeting was held last December.

Martin Kral asked the city to maintain a neutral position on Holtec to allow for the power of leverage in potential negotiations. He said proposing a resolution would cause the city to lose power to negotiate and would "get stuck" with the decision of the federal and state government.

Jimi Gadzia said she was "adamantly against" the Holtec Project and sees no benefit, only a "huge risk" to the city, county and local agricultural industry. Gadzia said railroad representatives said at a public meeting that the railroad line transporting the materials is the "worst in the state, if not the country" and there was no training for the railroad personnel to address radioactive materials. She said she has been attending as many meetings as possible on the matter and witnessed ELEA members speak against another similar project in Texas because they were not benefitting financially.

As someone in the oil business, Thomas "Tom" Jennings said an accident at one of the "hottest plays" in the U.S. could come at a high cost for the local business owners. Jennings said that the Holtec project was highly risky for a low benefit. He said he attended an NRC meeting with seven people in favor (six were nuclear engineering students working for Holtec and one Holtec employee) and 48 attendees in opposition.

Nick Maxwell, from Hobbs, provided public records and resolutions opposing Holtec. He alleged ELEA, a tax-funded body, has held multiple meetings without following the Open Meetings Act and thereby violating them. He also gave a packet from an ELEA meeting on Wednesday morning to the councilors and shared news that ELEA hired a lobbyist to push the matter to the state Legislature.

"I just wanted to let you know Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance is bad news," Maxwell said. "Whether or not you agree with Holtec or not, you should concern yourself that this regional government Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance didn’t play by the rules. They got to where they were and where they are now by breaking our laws."

Lorraine Villegas, also from Hobbs, works in the oil and gas industry and has been to several meetings about Holtec. She said she is aware that the proposed economic growth is an incentive for small communities to pass the matter, but she asked how many billions of dollars did the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad site cost the region. She asked for caution from the council on deciding on the matter.

"I oppose it," Villegas said. "If we’re going to call this project consent-based, it’s important to acknowledge that the majority of people who have been at these meetings have opposed it and these are the people who vote for people around here."

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04(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.

Discussions on Holtec facility continue amid concerns

Aug. 16, 2018

Adrian C Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

The meeting was designed to allow public comment on a proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility by Holtec International. Wochit

Jeff Steinborn
Jeff Steinborn
(Photo: New Mexico Legislature)

An opinion issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas suggested New Mexico will have a limited role in licensing a proposed facility to store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee, said Balderas’ opinion was informative but did not preclude lawmakers from continuing to ask hard questions about the project.

The committee convened in May to study the project proposed by New Jersey-based Holtec International, and held its third meeting on Wednesday at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

Steinborn said state lawmakers owe their constituents a full review of the proposal.

"I think it’s kind of a troubling deficiency in the government if the state doesn’t have to give consent to have something like this foisted upon it," he said. "The State of New Mexico owes it to the people to look at every aspect of it."

In Balderas’ response to multiple questions asked by Steinborn, he cited numerous past cases that Balderas said created a precedent that state governments have almost no role in federal licensing for nuclear facilities.

He said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has the sole authority to license the facility, and the state’s authority would likely begin once it went into operation, providing some recourse if something goes wrong.

"While it is abundantly clear that the state cannot license or otherwise directly regulate interim storage facilities, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that state tort law can provide a remedy for injuries suffered as a result of nuclear plant operation," Balderas wrote.

Steinborn said the state has limited recourse other than to insist that concerns about infrastructure be addressed during the licensing process.

"There’s other issues that are not part of licensure," Steinborn said. "There’s clearly a lot of concerns over infrastructure deficiencies."

New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55), who represents Carlsbad and Eddy County and sits on the committee, said Balderas’ opinion further validates that the NRC’s oversight is sufficient and the state’s role in nuclear regulation is limited.

"The analysis done by the Attorney General’s office confirms that licensing of nuclear facilities is the domain of the federal government, not the states," Brown said. "This point has been made a number of times in hearings of our Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee, so the AG’s analysis is not a surprise."

John Heaton, chair of the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance questioned Steinborn’s motivation when the senator challenged the facility Heaton said would bring many lucrative job opportunities to southeast New Mexico.

"I can’t understand why the State of New Mexico would want to stop a project that creates good, high-paying jobs. It doesn’t make sense," Heaton said. "We’re the only state that hasn’t recovered from the depression of 2008, and it’s because of attitudes like that."

Heaton argued that the NRC’s approval would signal a safe, productive project and would not require much state oversight.

"Through congressional action, (the NRC) was given the authority over managing nuclear materials in the private sector," he said. "They take that responsibility very seriously.

"I don’t think there is a major role for the State. It’s preempted by the NRC.

In recent months the NRC hosted numerous meetings to solicit public comment from residents across the state in developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project.

State House Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55)
State House Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55) (Photo: Courtesy)

The public comment period closed on July 30, and the NRC hopes to bring a draft EIS for further public comment in summer 2019.

Meanwhile, the city councils for New Mexico’s two biggest cities: Albuquerque and Las Cruces voted this summer to oppose Holtec’s transportation of the waste through their communities.

Steinborn said most of the attendees he saw at the meetings were against the facility.

"It’s not an exciting proposition for most people to live near or in the state where all the country’s high-level waste is," he said. "It just doesn’t seem to make sense to New Mexico. It’s not just about where the waste goes, it’s the end game."

That end could mean permanent storage of the waste in New Mexico, Steinborn worried, as a permanent repository in Yucca Mountain stalled after state lawmakers opposed the project and blocked the necessary utilities.

He said the waste should continue to be stored at the generator sites – many near large bodies of water and high population areas – until disposal is possible.

"There could be better options," Steinborn said. "There is an effort to pressure New Mexico, that it’s New Mexico’s patriotic duty. That’s kind of insulting. If it’s a patriotic duty, they should put it in their backyard."

 (Photo: Holtec International)
(Photo: Holtec International)

He pointed to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), built near Carlsbad as a permanent repository for low-level transuranic nuclear waste – where a drum of waste ruptured in 2014 and led to the plant’s four-year closure.

Even the soundest plans can fail, Steinborn said.

"People were potentially exposed to radiation all because of human error," he said of the incident at WIPP. "This is a much higher magnitude. This is a different animal. It’s easy to conflate it with WIPP, and that’s why I think some people have become complacent."

More: WIPP: Full air filtration mode a ‘conservative decision’ to protect environment, workers

The differences between WIPP and the Holtec proposal could keep Holtec from coming to fruition, said Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Unlike WIPP, which is allowed specifically by the federal Land Withdrawal Act, Hancock argued the Department of Energy is barred by federal law to contract with a private company for consolidated interim storage (CIS) of the spent nuclear fuel.

"They’re trying to change the law," Hancock said of Holtec officials. "My organization and many others are saying ‘No. Do not change the law.’"

That view is shared by the majority of the state, at least those who commented, Hancock said.

"The state should represent its population," he said. "In most of the state, folks who think it’s a good thing are in the minority. Some representatives in southeast New Mexico are saying their constituents think it’s a good idea. They’re definitely far from the majority.

"They’re saying the people of New Mexico support this. That is clearly, on the record, not true."


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

Editor’s note: This story was edited Aug. 18 by the Current-Argus editor to reflect the intentions and accuracy of statements by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36) published Aug. 16. Content regarding the state of New Mexico’s recourse in light of opinions issued by Attorney General Hector Balderas on the federal licensure of Holtec’s proposed storage facility was edited to reflect continuing discussions by the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee. The prior publication incorrectly stated the state of New Mexico had recourse to block transportation and utilities to the proposed facility.

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.

Las Cruces council votes down nuclear storage facility

July 26, 2018

By Maddy Hayden, Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Las Cruces has joined the ranks of municipalities around the state in opposing a proposed interim storage facility for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in southeast New Mexico – or at least opposing the transportation of the radioactive material through respective communities.

The Las Cruces City Council voted narrowly this week to approve a resolution opposing the Holtec International site.

"We have a lot of problems already that come from all the nuclear testing in New Mexico … . I just feel that we get dumped on," Councilor Yvonne Flores said. "I personally feel that it would be immoral for me to vote in support of this project."

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have each passed legislation opposing the fuel’s transportation through the city and county on its way to the site.

Council members asked questions and debated the project for over two hours Monday night before ultimately voting 4-3 to pass a resolution "to oppose the transport of high level nuclear wastes and the construction and operation of nuclear waste storage facilities in New Mexico."

At the heart of the concerns, as at most public meetings and hearings regarding the project, was the logistics and safety of transportation of the highly radioactive fuel.

"There’s really no upside to Las Cruces. The downsides could be huge," said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. "I’m supportive of your interests as long as your interests don’t interfere with mine, which is the safety and welfare of Las Cruces residents."

Others on the council felt that more information was needed before a decision could be made.

"My reasoning was that I was hoping for more information of a scientific nature coming to us," said Councilor Jack Eakman, who opposed the resolution, in an interview Tuesday. "In my mind, we should not be afraid of atomic energy in any way. I was looking at the feasibility of the project and I wasn’t going to rule it out just because it contains the word ‘nuclear.’ "

The council will submit the resolution to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is accepting public comment on Holtec’s license application until July 30.

The state House and Senate each passed resolutions in support of the project in 2016; Gov. Susana Martinez wrote a letter of support in 2015.

The city governments of Carlsbad and Hobbs, and Lea and Eddy counties, the communities in closest proximity to the project, have also legislated support of the site.

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.

Las Cruces City Council Passes Resolution Warning of Radioactive Waste Risks

July 24, 2018

KRWG
OpEd By Public Citizen

Commentary: Last night, the Las Cruces City Council opposed a controversial proposed high-level radioactive waste site and the transportation of this dangerous waste through the Southwest region. Similar resolutions have been passed in the cities of Albuquerque, Lake Arthur and Jal, as well as Bernalillo County. In addition, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association passed a resolution in June, signaling growing opposition to transporting and burying the nation’s most deadly nuclear reactor waste.

Holtec International is seeking "interim" storage of the nation’s deadly high-level radioactive waste, which it hopes will be for at least 120 years.

Establishing a waste dump in New Mexico would lead to the dangerous transport of high-level radioactive waste that would travel through major U.S. cities, over major aquifers and across Tribal and agricultural lands. Transportation routes are likely to go through Las Cruces, as well as many cities across the country, including Albuquerque and Belen, New Mexico, and El Paso, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Midland Seven, Texas. A U.S. Department of Energy report found that a small radioactive release could result in contamination of a 42-square-mile area and clean-up costs of up to $9.5 billion for a single square mile of an urban area.

The Las Cruces resolution recommended:

  • a thorough analysis of all parties’ responsibilities, costs and potential cumulative impacts;
  • a requirement for written consent by the state, affected local officials, and affected Indian tribes to the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission to license such activities, and;
  • a committed federal strategy identifying a long-term equitable solution to the continued use, management, and storage of nuclear waste.
  • "Why should people of New Mexico be dumped on with nuclear reactor waste from around the country, when we don’t have any reactors in our state?" asked Rose Gardner, a resident of Eunice, New Mexico, who co-founded the Alliance for Environmental Strategies. "The Las Cruces City Council deserves thanks for acting to protect the community. The risks to health, safety, security and financial well-being are immense and people need to act now to stop the plan that risks the lives of people here in New Mexico, as well as those along transport routes throughout the country."

    The resolution follows a legislative committee hearing held last Thursday in Hobbs, New Mexico, at which the Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee of the New Mexico Legislature heard from railroad engineers about the risks of rail transportation and others on whether there is adequate emergency preparedness for a nuclear accident. The committee also took input from concerned members of the public, including representatives from the oil and gas industry, dairy industry, farmers, cattle ranchers, and faith and community leaders.

    Opponents of the project once again significantly outnumbered supporters, and railroad experts recommended that the committee not support the project at this time due to numerous safety concerns.

    Comments to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding the Holtec application are due July 30, 2018. Comments can be made online at NoNuclearWaste.org or https://action.citizen.org/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=13813

    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.