Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2020-2021
By Christine Manwiller
Proposals targeting Texas and New Mexico for above-ground centralization of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste (dubbed Consolidated Interim Storage) under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), face broad opposition. In 2017, Holtec International and partners proposed what they call a “temporary” dump in New Mexico for the waste reactor fuel. The companies claims that storage of this waste will only last 40 years, but the fine print allows for 80 years of “renewals.” In 2018, Interim Storage Partners, Inc., and Waste Control Specialists (WCS) requested that the NRC “resume evaluation” of a separate proposal to store up to 40,000 tonnes of the waste, along with other radioactive waste referred to as “low-level,” in Andrews County, West Texas.
Beyond Nuclear, in Takoma Park, Maryland, notes that both the WCS and Holtec plans are proceeding unlawfully. Under the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act (as amended), the federal government may not take title to high-level radioactive waste from commercial nuclear reactors until a permanent geologic dumpsite is operating. Under this law, the federal government cannot authorize funds for the transportation or “interim” storage of the waste, as Holtec and WCS propose, because there is no operating federal abandonment site. A license cannot be lawfully issued to WCS or Holtec until either a permanent site is operating, or the NWPA statute is again amended. Beyond Nuclear’s lawsuit in the case is on appeal.
Broad public resistance to the dumps was joined by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott who wrote November 3 to the NRC outlining the plan’s negative consequences: the risks of allowing volatile waste to sit on the surface in casks; the danger of the waste being close to the “largest producing oilfield in the world”: the potential for the site to attract terrorist acts; and the likelihood of the waste remaining in Texas for much longer than the proposed limit.
Risky transport of such dangerous waste is also under attack, and 19 resolutions have been adopted by communities across Texas and New Mexico, several of which are municipal resolutions banning the transportation. —Carlsbad Current-Argus, Nov. 10; Office of Governor of Texas letter, Nov. 3, 2020