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Local opposition to Holtec’s temporary storage for nuclear waste in New Mexico

Public comments are due by Sept. 22, and can be made at the online meetings; by email to Holtec-CISFEIS@nrc.gov; at the federal rule-making website (www.regulations.gov, Docket ID NRC-2018-0052); or by mail (Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff, U.S. NRC, Washington, DC 20555-0001).

Licensing of temporary storage for nuclear waste in New Mexico inching forward

Nuclear regulator poised to OK move of spent fuel from reactors like San Onofre to temporary storage in New Mexico, but locals are opposed, By TERI SFORZA | tsforza@scng.com | Orange County Registerl August 26, 2020 

The quickest way to get nuclear waste off Southern California’s quake-prone coast? Temporary storage sites in sparsely populated corners of the nation, experts say.

After years of processing, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preliminary recommendation is that Holtec International be granted a license to build and operate such an interim storage site in New Mexico — which would first accept “stranded waste” from shuttered plants like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

“Hopeful,” said David Victor, an international law professor at UC San Diego and chair of San Onofre’s volunteer Community Engagement Panel. “But the regulatory process and the political process for the New Mexico site are moving in opposite directions.”

The NRC is hosting online meetings to present the project’s draft environmental impact report and gather public comment. The next virtual meetings are slated for 3 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, and 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2. Public comments must be submitted to the NRC by Sept. 22.

Holtec hopes to build the first of a 20-phase project that eventually would cover 330 acres. It would be located in southeast New Mexico, about halfway between the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs, and would look quite familiar to Southern Californians: Waste, potentially from all over the nation, would be stored in a Holtec HI-STORM UMAX in-ground system like the one at San Onofre.

But anyone familiar with the saga of Yucca Mountain — as well as the controversy surrounding waste storage here at San Onofre — won’t be surprised to find that the underlying issues are universal: Many locals adamantly oppose storing nuclear waste in their backyards.

Though the license period for Holtec’s New Mexico proposal would be 40 years, people fear nuclear waste would remain there forever

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” wrote New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, in a letter asking President Donald Trump to oppose Holtec’s project. “Accidents are possible and unacceptably detrimental to the safety of New Mexicans, our economy and our state.”

The governor argued that the site is geologically unsuitable, would place a financial burden on the state and local communities and poses a danger as spent nuclear fuel is shipped into New Mexico from around the nation.

Many New Mexicans, however, say that’s not enough. Speaking “under protest” at virtual meetings they believe may be unlawful, critics said the NRC must present its findings in state and in person. Since in-person gatherings can’t happen during the pandemic, deadlines should be postponed until after the pandemic is over, they argued.

Speakers also attacked Holtec’s crediblilty. The company is currently embroiled in conflict in New Jersey, where it sued the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in March for holding up a $26 million payment that was part of a tax incentive program to build a facility in Camden.

The authority asserts that Holtec failed to mention that it had run into hot water with the Tennessee Valley Authority on its tax credit application in 2014.

The Southern California News Group reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office looked into bribery allegations and asserted that a subcontractor manufacturing Holtec’s casks — U.S. Tool & Die — wrote checks totaling $54,212 to the account of a TVA manager. That money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, originated with Holtec.

The TVA manager pleaded guilty to falsifying financial statements by not disclosing those payments. Holtec said it wasn’t privy to any of this, and was not charged. But in 2010, the company paid a $2 million “administrative fee” to the TVA and became the first contractor in TVA history to be debarred. Its contract was suspended for 60 days, and it submitted to a yearlong monitoring program of its operations, according to the TVA’s inspector general.

Holtec continued supplying waste storage casks to the TVA, as well as to other nuclear plants in America and overseas.

At San Onofre, Holtec has had other bumps, including a surprise redesign of the canisters that hold nuclear waste and a snippy war of words with members of the San Onofre Community Engagement Panel. Errors loading spent fuel into the UMAX stopped operations for nearly a year, but were laid at the feet of operator Southern California Edison.……..

Public comments are due by Sept. 22, and can be made at the online meetings; by email to Holtec-CISFEIS@nrc.gov; at the federal rule-making website (www.regulations.gov, Docket ID NRC-2018-0052); or by mail (Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff, U.S. NRC, Washington, DC 20555-0001). https://www.ocregister.com/2020/08/25/licensing-of-temporary-storage-for-nuclear-waste-in-new-mexico-inching-forward/

August 27, 2020 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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