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60 Groups to NRC: Suspend ISP/WCS High-Level Radioactive Waste CIS Dump Proceeding, Till Covid-19 Emergency Ends

Coalition Calls for DEIS Public Comment Meetings Along Targeted Transport Routes in Texas and Beyond

NEWS FROM BEYOND NUCLEAR
For immediate release, July 14, 2020

Contact:
Rose Gardner, Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES), Eunice, NM, nmlady2000@icloud.com, (575) 390-9634
Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Austin, TX,
karendhadden@gmail.com, (512) 797-8481
Susybelle Gosslee, League of Women Voters of Texas, sgosslee@airmail.net, (214) 732-8610
Terry Lodge, legal counsel for Don’t Waste Michigan, et al., tjlodge50@yahoo.com, (419) 205-7084
Wally Taylor, legal counsel for Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, wtaylorlaw@aol.com, (319) 366-2428
Michael Keegan, Don’t Waste MI & Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes, mkeeganj@comcast.net, (734) 770-1441
Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear, kevin@beyondnuclear.org, (240) 462-3216
Stephen Kent, KentCom LLC, (914) 589 5988, skent@kentcom.com

ANDREWS, TEXAS — A coalition of 60 environmental and environmental justice groups, from 22 states, has written the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding Interim Storage Partners, LLC’s (ISP) proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for irradiated nuclear fuel targeting the Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS) site in Andrews County, Texas. See the letter, here.

The coalition’s letter to NRC advises:

All of the undersigned organizations hereby request that the Commission indefinitely extend, for the duration of the national COVID-19 pandemic emergency, the ongoing public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the ISP/WCS CISF proposed for development in Andrews County, west Texas. At the formal termination of the national emergency, as via a safe and effective vaccine available to all people regardless of socio-economic status, we request that the public comment period then be extended for a period of 180 days, post-pandemic. We further request that when in-person public comment meetings again become safely possible that the NRC conduct plenary-style, in-person public comment meetings in the following six Texas locations: San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso, Midland, and Andrews. We also request that in-person public comment meetings likewise be held, post-pandemic, in more than a dozen cities nationwide, on impacted transport corridors in states outside Texas.

The 180-day public comment period (as opposed to NRC’s current 120-day public comment period, currently set to end on September 4, 2020), and nearly two-dozen public comment meetings in more than a dozen states, would match the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) public comment proceeding at the DEIS phase of the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada permanent repository scheme, targeted at Western Shoshone lands. This ISP/WCS CISF proposal is more than half as large as the Yucca scheme: 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel, versus 70,000. But because the CISF is supposedly "temporary," export shipments would double the transport risks and impacts, thus matching those of the Yucca dump targeting Western Shoshone land.

The coalition letter came after U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-35th) wrote NRC, also urging public comment meetings across the Lone Star State be delayed until after the pandemic emergency — currently raging in Texas — ends, and the public comment period be held open until after the in-person meetings are completed, including in his congressional district. Similarly, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8th) has written NRC, urging the comment period be extended "throughout the duration of the pandemic," and to end it "no sooner than six months after this FEMA-declared emergency has passed."

Of the 60 groups on the letter, six are from TX: Energía Mía; Nuclear Free World Committee of the Dallas Peace and Justice Center; Public Citizen (Texas Office); Peace Farm; Sierra Club (Lone Star Chapter); and Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES), a largely Hispanic environmental justice organization, is based just five miles from the WCS site, across the state line in Eunice, New Mexico.

Of these, Public Citizen Texas Office, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, and SEED Coalition have officially intervened against the ISP/WCS CISF in the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board proceeding. Rose Gardner, founder of AFES, has provided legal standing to Beyond Nuclear in its legal intervention against the WCS/ISP CISF, as well.

Terry Lodge, an attorney based in Toledo, Ohio, represents Public Citizen and SEED Coalition. Wally Taylor, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, serves as legal counsel for Sierra Club.

Rose Gardner of Alliance for Environmental Strategies (AFES) in Eunice, NM said: "NRC has not even yet set up meetings in New Mexico or Texas for the public to comment on the ISP/WCS DEIS, and unfortunately this proceeding comes at a time when the whole nation, including New Mexico and Texas, are under stress and even dangerous conditions which do not allow for the common folk to even go to the grocery store or a doctor. NRC must stand down and postpone these meetings, as well as extend the comment period. The most vulnerable in our communities would be put at risk if these hearings were held now."

Gardner added: "I also admit that I am unable to concentrate on the dangers associated with the storage of high-level radioactive waste just five miles from my home even though that should be an important thing to discuss as this could possibly impact the futures of everyone in this area. NRC must take into account that these are not normal times and that regular communities are encountering abnormal situations every day that we never thought we would have to deal with. Living in the oil patch is especially difficult now because jobs are being lost and companies are pulling out of town at an amazing rate. I don’t even know where we will be in two weeks as the dangerous contagious coronavirus pandemic seems to be getting worse, not better."

Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition based in Austin, TX said: "A private company seeks to profit by dumping the nation’s deadliest nuclear reactor waste in West Texas, a massive environmental injustice. The facility could get licensed by NRC, an agency that’s been ignoring the voices of thousands of Texans and people across the country who live along transportation routes. So far the process has been a sham. Well-documented health and safety concerns were tossed out by hearing judges. The NRC must start listening, and hold real public meetings on the DEIS, once the Covid-19 risks are over. More than 5.4 million Texans have been represented by county and city resolutions opposing nuclear waste dumping."

Hadden added: "These voices must count and the NRC must stop ramming massive deadly waste projects through at a time when many people are struggling just to keep their families healthy and fed."

Don’t Waste Michigan, et al. legal counsel Terry Lodge said: "The NRC’s official position, that potentially tens of thousands of extremely dangerous radioactive waste shipments are not even worth discussing in a scientific and public manner, is a dramatic red flag. There is zero justification to rush this ill-considered cash cow to licensing. The NRC must not be allowed to take advantage of the pandemic to ramrod a decision in the shadows."

Wally Taylor, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter’s legal counsel, said: "The DEIS for this project implicates so many issues and requires intense study, and probably expert review and opinions, that 120 days is clearly not enough time to submit the thorough and technically based comments that the NRC will require. ISP/WCS, and the NRC, want to fast-track this process to prevent genuine public input. We will not allow that to happen."

In its letter, the locations along major transport routes where the coalition urges NRC to hold public comment meetings include: Andrews, TX; Atlanta, GA; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, OH; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; El Paso, TX; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; Kansas City, MO; Miami, FL; Midland, TX; Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN; Nashville, TN; New York, NY/Newark, NJ; Omaha, NE; Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Antonio, TX; San Luis Obispo, CA; St. Louis, MO; Salt Lake City, UT; and Tampa, FL.

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Beyond Nuclear is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization. Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abolish both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear. Beyond Nuclear: 7304 Carroll Avenue, #182, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Info@beyondnuclear.org. www.beyondnuclear.org.

Feds Give Thumbs-Up to West Texas Nuclear Waste Plan

May 6, 2020

TRAVIS BUBENIK
Courthouse News Service

A view of an existing site in West Texas where a company wants to store toxic waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants. (Photo courtesy of Waste Control Specialists)

(CN) — A federal review of a plan to move highly radioactive nuclear waste to rural West Texas from sites across the U.S. has concluded that regulators should approve the plan because it would not lead to significant environmental problems.

The nearly 500-page draft report released Monday is a significant milestone that follows years of ups and downs on the proposal, which would involve shipping thousands of tons of spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants to a remote facility on the West Texas-New Mexico border.

A company called Interim Storage Partners wants to eventually bring about half of the nation’s growing, problematic stockpile of high-level nuclear waste to an existing toxic waste site in rural Andrews County, Texas. Under the proposal, the waste would likely sit there for decades until the government decides on a more permanent way to dispose of it.

The company is a joint venture of the site’s current operator, Waste Control Specialists, and the American arm of global nuclear power firm Orano.

Environmental groups have long opposed the plan, arguing in part that it would threaten cities and towns across the U.S. as the waste moves by rail to the Texas site.

In recent months, the groups have hit dead ends in their attempts to fight the project in regulatory proceedings, with some advocates complaining that they felt unjustly pushed out of the debate.

In the draft report released Monday, staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the full commission should approve an initial 40-year license for the company to bring about 5,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to West Texas. If granted, the license could later be expanded to allow up to 40,000 metric tons.

The report concluded the plan would only cause small or moderate impacts to things like air and water quality, historic and cultural resources and public health, according to a 20-page summary.


A map of where nuclear waste would be sent to in Texas. (Image via Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
"After considering the environmental impacts of the proposed action, the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation is issuance of an NRC license," the commission said in a statement announcing the report.

Karen Hadden, who leads the environmental advocacy group SEED Coalition and has fought the proposal for years, described the commission’s review as "woefully inadequate."

"The NRC does not seem to be taking health and safety and security concerns seriously," she said in an interview. "They’re just trying to ram this project though and it’s putting us at risk. There could be accidents, there could be leaks, there could be hijacking of radioactive material."

Hadden said her group continues to formally appeal its rejection from the regulatory proceedings. She said the group will push the commission to hold public meetings in cities like Dallas and San Antonio, where the waste could travel through, in addition to the several meetings the commission said it will hold in and around Andrews County.

While Monday’s report is a step forward for the long-simmering West Texas proposal, it’s still far from a done deal.

Regulators plan to take public comments on the draft environmental report, for a longer-than-usual period of time because of the coronavirus pandemic, and to hold an online webinar in addition to the public meetings. After that, the commission will work on a finalized version of the report and a parallel safety review of the plan that will be released in the spring of 2021. A final decision on the plan would follow.

Meanwhile, the same regulators are also considering a rival plan that would bring the nuclear waste to a different site in the same general area, but instead just across the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico.

Like with the Texas plan, a subset of the NRC recently rejected environmental groups’ protests to the New Mexico plan, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Politics could ultimately play into the fate of the nuclear waste debate as well, as it has before.

In February, President Donald Trump seemed to backtrack on his own administration’s attempted revival of a plan to dump the nation’s nuclear waste at a site called Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Obama administration had previously abandoned the plan after years of pushback from Nevada residents and elected officials.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has in the past voiced displeasure at the idea of expanding the types of nuclear waste that are stored at the Andrews County site, saying he doesn’t want Texas to become “the radioactive waste dumping ground of America.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report released Monday.

Copyright © 2020 courthousenews.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.

Federal officials recommend storage of nuclear waste in West Texas

May 07, 2020

By Jakob Brandenburg
KOSA/CBS7

WEST TEXAS — The federal government has taken another step toward storing the nation’s nuclear waste in West Texas.

This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report recommending the approval for radioactive waste to be transported across Texas, and stored in Andrews County.

The existing facility near the Texas-New Mexico Border is operated by Waste Control Specialists, and a joint venture called Interim Storage Partners hopes to bring the nation’s high-level nuclear waste to the facility.

"The employees of WCS live here and are part of this community," Elicia Sanchez with Interim Storage Partners said. "We are very confident in the safety of our facility, and very excited about the opportunity that it will bring the community of Andrews."

If approved, the company would receive a 40-year license to bring about 5000 metric tons of nuclear waste to West Texas.

And while the company and its website swear by the safety of the storage process, Andrews County residents are still worried.

"Very dangerous," Elizabeth Padilla with the group ‘Save Andrews County’ said. "We’re talking about the nation’s spent fuel from nuclear reactors across the country. The waste that nobody wants. The high radioactive waste."

Those against the storage of waste say that people in Andrews aren’t the only ones who should be concerned.

To get to the facility, the nuclear waste must travel by truck or train through Texas cities

"Midland in particular it would definitely come right through the downtown area," Karen Hadden with SEED Coalition said. "This material has to be isolated from living things for a million years, and there is no way that a facility in Texas, the one that’s being looked at, could do that."

The public is now allowed to comment on the draft and attend meetings held by the NRC.

The final environmental impact statement is scheduled to be released in May of 2021.

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.
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