Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporter
Thursday, October 1, 2020
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott added his name yesterday to the list of state leaders opposed to the storage of nuclear waste in their state.
His opposition to a pair of proposed interim storage sites in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico currently undergoing Nuclear Regulatory Commission review likely makes the prospects of those private projects moving forward untenable.
New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham voiced similar concerns to both sites last year. She echoed those concerns in August (Greenwire, Aug. 10).
In a letter to President Trump yesterday, Abbott argued that the storage site’s location in the Permian Basin — one of the world’s most prolific oil plays — could have the potential to disrupt oil and natural gas production operations.
"A stable oil and gas industry is essential to the economy, and crucial to the security of our great nation," Abbott said. "Allowing the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel and high level nuclear waste at sites near the largest producing oilfield in the world will compromise the safety of the region."
The planned West Texas site from Interim Storage Partners would be next to an existing Waste Control Specialists LLC low-level nuclear waste disposal facility in Andrews, Texas.
Interim Storage Partners was not immediately available for comment.
The plan — should it receive NRC approval — would put the 5,000 tons of nuclear waste on a concrete pad in dry-cask storage containers. Subsequent additions could boost the amount to 40,000 tons. In a draft environmental impact statement, the NRC staff found the proposal would not have significant impacts on the environment (E&E News PM, May 5).
That draft EIS is in an extended public comment period as a result of the pandemic.
More than 80,000 metric tons of nuclear waste currently sits at more than 120 sites across the country without any tenable strategy from the federal government on how to address it.
That waste had originally been pegged for disposal in the controversial Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.
Both the Obama and Trump administrations abandoned those efforts over heavy state opposition to the facility going forward. Trump in a February tweet called for "innovative solutions" to the nation’s nuclear waste backlog, and the Department of Energy said it would pursue an interim storage strategy.
New Mexico’s political leaders have expressed concern that any interim storage site could turn into a de facto long-term repository, given the limited number of other disposal strategies to have emerged.
Abbott echoed those concerns in his letter to the White House.
"The proposed sites in Texas and New Mexico do not provide the deep geologic isolation required for permanent storage in order to minimize the risks of accidents, terrorism, or sabotage, which could disrupt the country’s energy supply with catastrophic effects on the American economy," he said.
Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.