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Nuclear waste plan is too dangerous for NM

We are among the increasing number of people who oppose storing the nation’s deadliest radioactive waste near our communities. We’d like to respond to (the April 18) editorial and to air our concerns about the proposed high-level nuclear waste storage site in our part of the state.

The waste would consist of used fuel rods that have been inside operating nuclear reactors and still contain most of the original uranium, along with plutonium, cesium and strontium. While much of it is degraded within a century, some of the waste materials will remain active for a million years.

Holtec International’s controversial “consolidated interim storage” plan would store up to 100,000 tons of this dangerous waste from all the nuclear generators in the United States for as long as 120 years at a site between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

If Holtec gets its license, the waste will likely stay forever at a near-surface site never designed for long-term disposal. The federal government has failed for decades in efforts to develop an underground permanent repository for this dangerous radioactive waste, so why should we believe that this waste will ever be removed? Is this not kicking a dirty can down the road for the future generations and civilizations to clean up?

Holtec is also a private company that will only be in business for as long as it is profitable. What then? Congress has failed to appropriate enough money to clean up many of the existing contaminated sites. What would happen to New Mexico if the federal government breaks its promise to remove this waste later or won’t adequately fund cleanup?

The irradiated fuel rods would be contained in thin steel canisters, later surrounded by cement. These canisters aren’t designed for permanent storage. Metal fatigue, stress cracks or accidents could lead to radioactive leaks, but the application doesn’t say how they would re-package damaged canisters.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission set public meetings (last week) in Roswell, Hobbs and Carlsbad and has begun a public comment period. Written comments will be accepted until May 29. Turning out at these hearings and submitting comments are your only opportunity to just say no.

Eddy and Lea Counties are the two richest oil and gas producing counties in the country. The industry employs over 8,600 people. Why risk existing jobs for 55 jobs at the waste dump?

The New Mexico dairy industry’s total economic impact exceeds $5 billion annually, second only to oil and gas revenues in state economic impact. The dairy industry employs nearly 6,000 people and generates over 17,000 related jobs. A radioactive release could destroy the dairy, pecan, other agricultural and tourism industries in the Pecos Valley in the midst of widespread consumer panic.

We in New Mexico have been burdened with more than our fair share of the nation’s radioactive poisons. This long-lived dangerous waste could threaten existing jobs and economic development and risk our health today and for generations to come. Why do the people who live near this waste want it gone? If it’s so safe, why not leave it where it is? Now is the time to speak up before May 29 and “just say no” to radioactive waste storage.

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