Keeping a (Nuke)Watchful Eye on Consolidated Interim Storage: No High-Level Waste To New Mexico

If you follow news on nuclear waste, you know that the federal government is required by law to have a permanent disposal plan for our nation’s nuclear waste before engaging in temporary storage, or “consolidated interim storage” for commercial spent nuclear fuel. There are currently about 86,000 metric tons of this fuel in the U.S., stored on-site at operating or shutdown nuclear power plants in 33 states, an amount that continues to grow by about 2,000 metric tons a year (GAO). This is waste generated by nuclear power plants called ‘high-level radioactive waste’ (HLW), also known as ‘spent’ or ‘irradiated’ fuel. This waste contains plutonium, uranium, strontium, and cesium; it is most toxic and dangerous type of radioactive waste created by the nuclear industry and will be radioactive for millions of years.

Two private companies “Holtec” and “Interim Storage Partners” are proposing to build and operate facilities for HLW called “Consolidated Interim Storage Facilities (CISF)” in New Mexico and Texas. While federal law requires the government to have a permanent disposal solution, it does not explicitly prevent private entities from offering interim storage solutions. Enter money-gobbling Holtec and ISP.

Holtec’s CISF plans for New Mexico have faced multiple legal hurdles. A federal appellate court recently ordered a review and reversed a previous decision granting Holtec a license, citing potential procedural and regulatory issues. New Mexico’s political leaders, including Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Raúl Torrez, have expressed strong opposition to the plans. They argue that the facility could pose significant environmental hazards and effectively turn New Mexico into a permanent nuclear waste repository. In response, the state passed Senate Bill 53, which bans the storage of high-level nuclear waste and prohibits state agencies from issuing permits for such facilities. This legislation represents a significant legal obstacle for Holtec, as it requires essential state permits for construction and operation​ (Source NM)​​ (Source NM)​.

Holtec and the NRC have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate their storage license despite this regional opposition.

“The Supreme Court’s decision could have far-reaching implications for nuclear waste storage policies and the safety of communities across the country.” (CBS 7)

Holtec’s Chief Communications Officer stated:

“The Fifth Circuit’s ruling that the NRC was not authorized to license and regulate nuclear fuel storage is like saying OSHA is unqualified for worker safety, the FAA for aviation safety, and the EPA for environmental safety. We urge the Supreme Court to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s legally unsound position.”

From “Carlsbad Current Argus”:

Monica Perales, an attorney with Fasken Oil and Ranch which filed the initial suit against the NRC’s licensing decision, [argued] the proposals to store the nuclear waste in southeast New Mexico and West Texas should be evaluated by federal lawmakers, not a single agency like the NRC, due to the significant impact on the region and national policy she said consolidated interim storage of the waste could have.

Perales said the companies and the NRC were not transparent and did not convey the true impact of the projects to all of those affected, including southeast New Mexico and West Texas communities around the site, but also those along the transportation routes the waste will take into the Permian Basin via train.

“The NRC is acting like a rogue agency. They’re out of order,” Perales said. “These plans are of such political and economic consequence that they should be looking to Congress for a directive as to how to deal with this tremendous amount of spent nuclear fuel that’s piling up around the country, and not take it upon itself to send it to the Permian Basin and force it on us.”

Holtec contends that their operations are safe and necessary for managing the nation’s growing stockpile of nuclear waste. These sites and any transport to these sites are not only dangerous but environmentally unjust. New Mexico’s demographic is largely Latino. There are many communities of color, especially in the southern part of the state where the sites are being proposed. These sites present clear examples of environmental racism; people of color would be disproportionately affected if the Holtec/ISP CIS site were licensed and constructed.

Holtec also promises significant economic benefits to the region, including investments ranging from $2-3 billion and the creation of hundreds of jobs. However, Holtec’s track record of financial mismanagement and misleading statements raises serious doubts about these claims. Allegations from a former executive, who filed a lawsuit against the company, suggest that Holtec has a history of providing false financial projections to investors, undermining confidence in its ability to deliver on its promises​ (Source NM)​​. This lawsuit, coupled with Holtec’s controversial history of financial dealings, has intensified doubts about the company’s promises, rightfully so. See more on Holtec’s history of corruption and failure HERE.

New Mexico and Texas do not consent to either proposed CIS facility and are fighting to avoid the environmental injustice and the unnecessary shipment of irradiated high-level nuclear waste through their communities.

Read more:

Lethal High-Level Waste

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