New Holtec Information from Albuquerque Hearing Last Week

Holtec International wants to open the world’s largest “interim” nuclear waste dump for one of the most deadly materials on Earth – high-level radioactive waste – in southeast New Mexico.  The proposed site is located 16 miles northeast of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.  But Holtec has to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), among other approvals.

Last week, the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board held a hearing in Albuquerque with arguments from the twelve parties opposing the application, including two industry groups, and from Holtec and the NRC staff.  To view the hearing, go to and to read the hearing transcript, go to

Some statements from Holtec’s lawyers contradicted information the company previously provided.

For example, Holtec’s license application states the lethal radioactive waste would be owned by either the Department of Energy (DOE) or the nuclear utility companies that made it.  Nevertheless, during the second day of the hearing Holtec’s lawyer, Jay Silberg, admitted that under current law DOE cannot take title and ownership of the waste at an interim site.

In response, Diane Curran, one of the attorneys representing Beyond Nuclear, a Takoma Park, Maryland non-governmental organization opposing the license application, said, “We should not even have to argue this hypothetical case.  We call on the licensing board to dismiss the application.”

The waste generated by commercial nuclear power plants located mostly in the eastern U.S. would have to be transported across the country by rail, barge and truck.  The deadly containers would pass through nearly 90 percent of the U.S. congressional districts.  This waste can cause death in minutes if unshielded, and remains radioactive for literally millions of years.

Later, Silberg said that Holtec could bring the deadly waste to New Mexico if the nuclear power plant limited liability corporations retained title to the waste.  The companies would have to pay to transport the waste and remain economically and legally liable until DOE took title and shipped the waste to a permanent repository.  This scenario raises all sorts of questions, such as, who will fund the operations at the dump and its closure when the waste is removed – which may never happen – thus creating a de facto permanent dump.  [“Authorization: The Administration would require new legislative authority for interim storage because provisions in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that authorized interim storage have either expired or are unusable because they were tied to milestones in the development of a repository at Yucca Mountain that have not been met.”]

Terry Lodge, an attorney representing six organizations near power plants and the Nuclear Issues Study Group based in Albuquerque that oppose the license, said, “The Holtec proposal is a corporate welfare trough that will make the nuclear waste problem in this country worse, putting millions of people along transport routes at unnecessary risk.”

The three judge NRC panel will decide in early April which of the parties may continue in the licensing process.

This summer the NRC plans to release a draft environmental impact statement for public comment.  Stay tuned!  Get involved!

About the number of environmental bills before the New Mexico Legislature?

1.    For instance, House Bill 206 – The Environmental Review Act “requires a state agency to conduct an ‘environmental assessment’ for a project if preliminary evaluation shows the project could have significant impact on the environment. The bill requires agencies to prepare a more detailed ‘environmental impact statement’ if the assessment shows the project is likely to have a significant environmental impact. Projects subject to review are those undertaken by public agencies (including state agencies, higher education institutions, counties, and municipalities), by an applicant for a ‘lease, permit, license, certificate or other entitlement’ issued by the state, or proposed on state land or land subject to state jurisdiction. HB206 provides for public comment periods, rulemaking authority to implement the legislation, and judicial review.”  1/18/19 Fiscal Impact Report at

2.  CCNS recommends that you become familiar with the New Mexico legislature website at  There you can find the names and contact information for your legislators.  Please contact them about your concerns and recommendations about pending bills. You can also learn about when the House and Senate will reconvene, review the House and Senate agendas for each day and watch the committee hearings.


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