UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED - Lawsuit challenges plan to use road and rail routes through 45 states and DC to haul 10,000 high-risk irradiated nuclear waste shipments (most of them from Eastern U.S.) all the way to New Mexico. http://ow.ly/lBDp30qT60s #nuclear #nuclearenergy #radiation



Why should NM store nation’s nuclear waste?
By Laura Watchempino / Multicultural Alliance For A Safe Environment, 
Pueblo Of Acoma
Friday, April 3rd, 2020 at 12:02am

If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s conclusion that it’s safe to move 
spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants across the country to a 
proposed storage facility in Lea County sounds vanilla-coated, it’s 
because the draft environmental impact statement for a Consolidated 
Interim Storage Facility submitted by Holtec International did not 
address how the casks containing the spent fuel would be transported to 
New Mexico.

It’s likely the casks would be transported primarily by rail using aging 
infrastructure in need of constant repair. But our rail systems were not 
built to support the great weight of these transport casks containing 
thin-wall fuel storage canisters.

Nor was the potential for cracked or corroded canisters to leak 
radiation studied because an earlier NRC Generic EIS for the Continued 
Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel assumed damaged fuel storage canisters 
would be detected during an intermediary dry transfer system or a pool. 
But Holtec’s proposal only addresses a new destination for the 
high-level nuclear waste – not the removal and transport of the fuel 
storage canisters from nuclear power plants to New Mexico.

Even transport casks with canisters that are not damaged will release 
radiation as they are transported from nuclear power plants to the 
storage facility, exposing populations along the transport routes in a 
majority of states and tribal communities in New Mexico to repeated 
doses of radiation.

Other issues not considered in the draft EIS were the design life of the 
thin-wall canisters encasing the nuclear fuel rods and faulty 
installation at reactor sites like San Onofre, or the self-interest of 
the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance in using the land it acquired for a 
consolidated interim storage site.

Thin-wall canisters cannot be inspected for cracks and the fuel rods 
inside are not retrievable for inspection or monitoring without 
destroying the canister. NRC does not require continuous monitoring of 
the storage canisters for pressure changes or radiation leaks. The fuel 
rods inside the canisters could go critical, or result in an 
uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, if water enters the canisters 
through cracks, admits both Holtec and the NRC. None of us are safe if 
any canister goes critical.

Yet a site-specific storage application like Holtec’s should have 
addressed NRC license requirements for leak testing and monitoring, as 
well as the quantity and type of material that will be stored at the 
site, such as low burnup nuclear fuel and high burnup fuel.

With so many deficiencies in the draft EIS, a reasonable alternative is 
to leave this dangerous radioactive nuclear waste at the nuclear plants 
that produced it in dry cask storage rather than multiply the risk by 
transporting thousands of containers that could be damaged across many 
thousands of miles and decades to southeastern New Mexico, then again to 
a permanent repository.

Interim storage of spent nuclear fuel at existing nuclear plant sites is 
already happening – there are 65 sites with operating reactors in the 
United States and dry cask storage is licensed at 35 of these sites in 
24 states. But since the thin-wall canisters storing the fuel rods are 
at risk for major radioactive releases, they should be replaced with 
thick-walled containers that can be monitored and maintained. The 
storage containers should be stored away from coastal waters and flood 
plains in hardened buildings.

Attempting to remove this stabilized nuclear waste from where it is 
securely stored across hundreds or thousands of miles through our 
homelands and backyards to a private storage facility also raises some 
thorny liability issues, since the United States will then be relieved 
of overseeing the spent nuclear fuel in perpetuity. The states and 
nuclear plants that want to send us their long-lived radioactive waste 
will also be off the hook, leaving New Mexico holding a dangerously 
toxic bag without any resources to address the gradual deterioration of 
man-made materials or worse, a catastrophic event. It’s a win/win, 
however, for Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance.

Environmental justice footnote: When removal of uranium mine waste on 
the Navajo Nation was being discussed a few years ago, communities got 
this response from EPA: Digging up the waste and transporting it to a 
licensed repository in different states outside the Navajo Nation – 
which has always been the Nation’s preferred alternative – is the most 
expensive option. “Off-site disposal, because of the amount of waste in 
and around these areas, means possibly multiple years of hundreds and 
hundreds and hundreds of trucks going in and out of the community and 
driving for miles.”