The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (RCLC) Board met Thursday in Española.
The meeting included a presentation by Holtec International Program Director Ed Mayer describing the safety features of a proposed storage site in southern New Mexico should the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issue the New Jersey-based company a 40-year license. If that happens, Holtec would build a multibillion-dollar site to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial reactors around the United States.
“Our job is to prove the facility is safe and secure,” Mayer said.
Mayer also noted the economic benefits to neighboring communities, starting with 100 construction jobs to build the facility and once up and running, more than 200 jobs in ongoing operations.
RCLC Board Vice Chair Darian Fernandez questioned Mayer about negative reports published in other communities about the company losing tax incentives for not meeting employment commitments among other things. Mayer said those issues weren’t in his wheelhouse, but he would look into them.
The project has generated controversy around the state. Patricia Cordova of the Sierra Club and Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico spoke against the project during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, citing economic, safety and environmental concerns. Cordova pointed out that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Land Commission Stephanie Garcia Richard oppose the project.
The RCLC Board also heard a presentation by Todd Nelson of N3B, the company that has contracted with Los Alamos National Laboratory to execute the Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract.
“We want to more fully involve the community with the cleanup,” Nelson said.
N3B is committed to informing stakeholders about the cleanup and involving them in cleanup decisions, he said.
N3B also is working with Northern New Mexico College to establish an apprenticeship program for radiation control technicians. The first five people have been chosen. Students receive a paycheck from N3B while they train, Nelson said.
“They finish with an associate degree, certification and a job,” Nelson said.
The company has made a commitment to donate five percent of its earned fee ($400,000) to Northern New Mexico nonprofits. One-third of the funds goes to the apprentice program and two-thirds to nonprofits.
“We take applications at any time and review them on their merits,” Nelson said.
N3B chromium expert Danny Katzman also gave a presentation on the clean-up project that utilizes injection wells to extract contaminated water, which is cleaned, then returned to its original site.
The meeting wrapped up with a presentation by RCLC Executive Director Eric Vasquez on the results of an Aug. 7, 2018 audit of the RCLC conducted by the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor enumerating 18 findings on the manner in which the RCLC and its fiscal agent maintain financial operations. Vasquez told the board that RCLC is now in compliance on 15 of those findings and will be in compliance with the remaining three by the end of the summer.
When asked by board members why he hadn’t re-applied this year for a $100,000 DOE grant, Vasquez explained it was because the DOE grant program is undergoing an investigation by the DOE Inspector General over its handling of grants and the RCLC had been undergoing an audit at that time.
“Both the RCLC and DOE spent this year getting our houses in order and we indent to apply for the grant next time,” Vasquez said.
He also mentioned that the RCLC has contracted with an independent accountant, who actually started today and will review all expenditures and track budgets going forward.
“We also have contracted with an independent auditor who is reviewing our past six years of financials records,” Vasquez said.