Two powerful forces have landed in southeastern N.M. No, much worse than extraterrestrials. Nuclear waste disposal and drilling companies see us as prime real estate worth billions of dollars.
“Nuclear Alley” is known by the residents of Hobbs, Carlsbad, Eunice, Loving and Jal. In 2015, Holtec International bought 32 acres near Carlsbad for the storage of 173,000 British metric tons of nuclear waste for 20 years. A British “metric ton” adds 200 lbs more per ton than the standard U.S. measurement of 2,000 lbs. The Holtec site plans to store radioactive material 15 miles from the WIPP site. WIPP, the Waste Isolation Power Plant, is operating despite a 2014 radiation leak closing the plant for three years. Near Eunice, a Urenco uranium enrichment plant now operates a $4 billion waste site only 12 miles north of WIPP.
(According to Sanonofresafety.org, a website highly critical of Holtec operations in California), Holtec’s radiation storage canisters weigh up to 100,000 pounds with a thickness of 5/8 of an inch. Many countries store waste in thick-walled, bolted-lid metal casks 10 to 20 inches thick, the standard in most of the world, except the U.S. In 2012, the California San Onofre nuclear power plant closed due to faulty Holtec containers. Steam generators from 2011 showed premature wear on over 3,000 tubes, in 15,000 places. In 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded every Holtec canister downloaded into the storage holes was damaged due to inadequate clearance between the canister and the divider shell in the storage hole (vault). The NRC states that canister walls are already “worn.” This results in cracks. Once cracks start, they continue to grow through the wall.
ExxonMobil, Chevron and Occidental Petroleum are among many companies that use “fracking” when drilling. Fracking increases the risk of earthquakes because highly pressurised wastewater and chemicals are blasted underground, creating unstable fissures. A U.S. Geographical Survey noted increased dramatic earthquake changes in 17 U.S. zones, including southeastern N.M., which are in “particular danger from an increased number of what it calls ‘induced’ quakes where wastewater injection increases the underground pore pressure, which may lubricate nearby faults, thereby making earthquakes more likely to occur.”
Our precious Pecos River flows near these drilling sites. Fracking of one well consumes 3-6 million gallons of water. In water-starved southeastern N.M. and the Permian Basin, over 103,000 wells now require 500 million gallons of water to drill. After fracking, millions more gallons of toxic wastewater is generated and has to be disposed of before our drinking water and land is destroyed.
Radioactive storage and big oil have been very generous with their money in Santa Fe, convincing elected leaders to turn our southeastern backyard into a toxic soup of fracked wells, wastewater and radioactive leaks. Visitors will avoid entering “Nuclear Alley,” realizing the dangers of exposure to this waste. Bye-bye to tourists who want to visit Carlsbad Caverns and other attractions here.
It may be too late. Holtec has cemented its foothold here by buying over 30 acres for radioactive storage. The very profitable oil/gas drilling companies are firmly entrenched in N.M. I would welcome extraterrestrials any day over them.