On Tuesday the Carlsbad City Council unanimously approved a resolution to support a nuclear waste repository near the Eddy-Lea county border.
Holtec International proposed building the site, a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF), to hold spent nuclear fuel rods temporarily while a permanent repository was developed.
The resolution directed the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) to submit letters of response to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and any other officials who were still opposed to the project
Lujan Grisham issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy and Sec. Rick Perry opposing the project and calling it “economic malpractice.” She was in joined in her opposition by the New Mexico Congressional delegation and New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard.
“This interim storage facility will generate jobs and revenue in this state and maintain the diversity of Carlsbad’s economy, which has always been vital,” said Mayor Dale Janway.
“We believe the Holtec project is extremely safe and presents no danger to our other industries. We look forward to meeting with the governor and other officials to further explain the interim storage process.”
In 2017, Holtec applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for an application to license construction of the facility to hold nuclear waste temporarily while a permanent geological repository is devised.
The project came under fire from environmentalist groups challenging the safety of transporting the nuclear waste, and the danger posed by leaks.
Opponents also questioned how long the nuclear waste would spend in the CISF before being permanently relocated.
Mike Hernandez, Carlsbad’s City Administrator, said the proposed contract would last for up to 40 years, buying time while a permanent storage facility is built, which is estimated to take 10-15 years.
Hernandez said he does not object to the proposed site near the City of Carlsbad.
“I went to some of the public hearings they had and heard several presentations for and against, mostly for the CIS,” Hernandez said. “I’m convinced it’s safe. I’ve seen the (storage) process. I’ve seen the containers.
“They do drop tests where they drop containers from certain elevations and have shot at it with artillery. They have put it through every rigorous test possible. The odds of something leaking or going wrong are really one in a billion.”
Shirley said he agreed with Hernandez about the safety of the project and knows convincing people will require time.
“(The Holtec project) is one that without a doubt takes some education. This is a field that’s foreign to a lot of us, but I can assure you it’s not foreign to Holtec,” Shirley said.
“They’ve done this safely all over the world and have a track record. We simply feel like they’re the best around.”
Shirley said he does not worry about nuclear material “leaking” out of its storage containers.
“The cask that stores these fuel pellets, I think it’s important to understand these are pellets, not liquid. They can’t leak,” Shirley said. “They’re ceramic pellets that are enriched and if you want to see one I have one that sits on my desk. It’s not an active pellet, but it does the same thing. I can say the casks are just beyond safe.”
Hernandez added that the purpose of this resolution, which holds no weight as law, is to let the state lawmakers know that southeastern New Mexicans are on board with this and want their voices heard.
“With the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance we want to convince (the Governor) that this is safe,” Hernandez said. “We want support from local mayors, cities, counties (who will be affected by the plant) in doing that.”
Shirley brought the resolution to a vote, it was seconded by Mark Walterscheid and unanimously approved by the council.
Matthew Asher can be reached at 575-628-5524, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Caveman_Masher on Twitter.
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