In a rare bi-partisan effort this month, the Texas state legislature passed a nearly unanimous bill prohibiting the future storage or disposal of high-level radioactive waste. After the Texas Senate voted unanimously and the House passed the bill (House Bill No. 7) by a vote of 119-3, Governor Greg Abbott signed it on Thursday, September 9th. It became law that day and prohibits the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from issuing related water and construction permits. https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=872&Bill=HB7
However, on Monday, September 13th, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensed the construction and operation of a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility for high-level radioactive waste in Andrews County, Texas. The license was issued to Interim Storage Partners, LLC (ISP), which includes Waste Control Specialists, LLC, and their partner, Orano, to expand its existing facility located on the Texas – New Mexico border, five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico. https://interimstoragepartners.com/ and https://www.nrc.gov/waste/spent-fuel-storage/cis/waste-control-specialist.html
Interim Storage Partners proposes temporary storage of up to 40,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive nuclear power plant waste on concrete pads.
The State of Texas may consider court challenges to the NRC licensing. Those already involved in federal litigation over the license proceedings are four non-governmental organizations: Beyond Nuclear – for all the details and new fact sheets, please visit: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2021/9/14/beyond-nuclear-press-release-nrc-approves-texas-nuclear-wast.html , Sierra Club https://www.sierraclub.org/ , the Austin-based Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition https://www.seedcoalition.org/ , and Don’t Waste Michigan, et al. national coalition of watchdog groups https://www.dontwastemichigan.org/index.html Those cases are on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
Fasken Oil and Ranch, Limited, of Midland, Texas, which is located in the Permian Basin, joined the federal case.
Tommy Taylor, the Fasken assistant general manager, said, “We think [the ISP operation] is a crazy idea. If there’s a release, it’s going to contaminate the air and be a hazard for all the oil field workers and surface water in the area.”
The non-governmental organizations and Fasken also oppose the licensing of the proposed Holtec Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico, located in the Permian Basin about 35 miles west of the ISP site. An NRC decision is expected in early 2022. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/new-mexico-files-lawsuit-to-block-holtec-nuclear-waste-facility-cites-risk-to-oil-and-gas/ar-BB1f5YJk
Karen Hadden, with the Austin-based SEED Coalition, stated, “We’ll keep fighting, continuing our legal challenges and community organizing. The NRC has licensed other facilities that never got built, including two nuclear reactors planned for the South Texas Project site and the Private Fuel Storage facility in Utah for storage of high-level radioactive waste.”
Rose Gardner, of Alliance for Environmental Strategies, a declarant in the federal court challenges, and a resident of Eunice, New Mexico, stated, “I am thankful that the Texas Legislature voted to stop this dangerous nuclear waste from coming to their state. I live less than five miles from the site, yet my community in New Mexico has no vote and no choice, and gave no consent for nuclear waste to be stored at the facility. I have long been concerned about [Interim Storage Partners] and its voracious appetite for bringing more and more nuclear waste to my area, claiming it now needs a license for high-level radioactive waste because the waste disposal business wasn’t making enough money. I hope my concerns will be heard by a higher court than the NRC.” https://www.facebook.com/Alliance-for-Environmental-Strategies-1959311804080514/
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- Mon., Sept. 20 at 9 am – In-person [subject to change] NM Interim Legislative Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee meeting at Student Services & Technology Center 200, UNM-Gallup, 705 Gurley Avenue, Gallup, NM. The first panel discussion will be about The Legacy of Uranium Mining, Community Impacts, Cleanup and Challenges. The second panel discussion will be about Compensation for Downwinders and Uranium Mine Workers. A 30-minute public comment period will begin at approximately 12:15 pm. There will be a third panel after lunch updating the Committee on the Gold King Mine Spill and Restoration Project Program. The final session will be a report from the State Emergency Response Commission. For more information: https://nmlegis.gov/Committee/Interim_Committee?CommitteeCode=RHMC
- Mon., October 4th: Public comments are due to NM Environment Department about the proposed construction and use of hazardous waste disposal Units 11 and 12. This is DOE’s plan to “replace” the panels that were contaminated due to years of mismanagement (also known as “DOE’s mismanagement panels”). For more information see http://nuclearactive.org/does-latest-plan-for-expanding-wipp-three-new-drifts-and-two-new-waste-disposal-panels/ , https://nuclearactive.org/doe-continues-its-push-for-wipp-expansion/ and https://wipp.energy.gov/wipp_news_20210810.asp A sample public comment letter you can use is available here. f DP-831 (WIPP GWDP) Comment Ltr 8-30-21