New Mexico Can Act to Prevent Ill-Advised Profit Scheme

John Buchser, Nuclear Waste Issue Chair
From the Fall 2022 newsletter

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is scheduled in early 2023 to grant Holtec International a license to ‘temporarily’ store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad.

In September 2021, the NRC granted a similar license to WCS/ISP in Texas near the New Mexico state line. The Texas Legislature passed a bill to prohibit state permits for the facility, and Texas Gov. Abbott signed the legislation.

We need to follow the lead of Texas and pass a bill to block any state permitting needed by Holtec to build their facility (a building permit, water to make concrete, etc.).

During the 30-day legislative session earlier this year, state Sen. Jeff Steinborn and state Rep. Matthew McQueen successfully passed out of committee a bill to accomplish this, but time ran out for the full Legislature to pass the bill. The longer 60-day session this year will be our chance to pass this bill before Holtec gets the required state permits.

The Sierra Club and other organizations have challenged the NRC’s process in the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and may challenge the final environmental impact statement in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where the State of New Mexico also has filed suit.

The Texas attorney general and Fasken Oil have challenged the WCS/ISP license in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. In oral argument last month in that case, Texas and Fasken argued that the NRC doesn’t have explicit authority to issue the license under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. This argument is based on a summer decision of the Supreme Court that ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency does not grant explicit authority to control greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act. The 5th Circuit decision could go to the Supreme Court.

Federal law requires a permanent disposal site to be identified before any interim site is established, but no such site has been identified. The federal laboratories continue state-of-the-art research collaboratively with other research around the world. We need to keep up the pressure on our legislators in DC to move that research into reality.

Holtec argues that their waste storage casks are very safe, pointing out the decades of accident-free transport by the Navy. The Navy uses 8-inch-thick casks. Holtec uses 5/8 inch. The more you move this radioactive waste around, the more likely it is to have an accident or experience a terror attack.

It is urgent that we support the efforts of Sen. Steinborn and Rep. McQueen bill to prohibit state permits in order to stop Holtec’s scheme to make money off the Federal indecision in creating a long-term disposal facility, putting our communities at risk.

New Mexico Can Act to Prevent Ill-Advised Profit Scheme
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