Beyond Nuclear Fears New Mexico Being Targeted For Permanent High-Level Nuclear Waste Dump

IMG_6102.jpgKevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear addresses a Nov. 19 Nuclear Watch New Mexico forum in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/


Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear warned attendees at a recent Nuclear Watch New Mexico forum on stopping expanded pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory that there is another problem they as New Mexicans need to worry about.

“You are being targeted for a national high-level radioactive waste dump,” Kamps said. “Yucca Mountain in Nevada has long been targeted for permanent burial for commercial and even defense-related high-level radioactive waste, but the state of Nevada has fought it off for 32 years for very good reasons.”

He said unfortunately there is a Plan B which has raised its ugly head called consolidated interim storage.

“Holtec International, which is a New Jersey and Florida Company, has partnered up with local municipalities in southeastern New Mexico. It’s called the Eddie-Lea Energy Alliance – that’s the two counties and the two county seats of Carlsbad and Hobbs,” he said.

Kamps said what is being proposed is 173,000 metric tons of temporary storage with “temporary” not being defined.

“Will it be four years? Will it be 300 years? Truth be told, it will probably be forever,” he said.

Kamp said there’s actually a provision in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act that says the Department of Energy cannot take title or  ownership of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel at a temporary location unless there’s an open repository.

“DOE has admitted there won’t be an open repository built in this country until at least mid-century. And the problem is, once it gets somewhere, why would you open a repository, the problem’s solved,” he said. “And all the rhetoric is this is completely safe. And it’s a lie. It’s not completely safe. This is surface storage, near surface storage and potentially de facto permanent.”

Kamp claims even the Department of Energy has admitted that with loss of institutional control over a long period of time, essentially societal collapse and the inability to replace failing containers, that the lethal ingredients inside will get out and leak into the environment. He said that’s why this “temporary” storage is not acceptable for long periods of time.

“And so the fight has been on for some years and we have mounted quite a coalition from local groups right up to national groups like the Sierra Club. There’s a second consolidated interim storage facility targeted at the Waste Control Specialists site which is right on the New Mexico border and that the water flows into the Eunice area.

“So we have two of these dumps targeted essentially at your state or right on its border and this coalition of grassroots groups across the country has intervened in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceeding and that’s very much underway. We’re probably going to lose in the end and then we’re going to go to federal court with it,” Kamps said.

At the same time he said groups opposing the facilities are trying to defend the NWPA as it exists “while Holtec’s lobbyists are busy on Capitol Hill trying to change the law to make it okay for the DOE to take ownership at the Holtec site in New Mexico and pay all the bills”.

“Holtec doesn’t want to pay this. The nuclear industry doesn’t want to pay this,” Kamps said. “And perhaps the most significant of all is the transfer of liability. Once the DOE takes ownership, it’s the taxpayers problem no matter what happens, no matter how bad the disaster might be, it’s the DOE, it’s the taxpayers who will be liable.”

He said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard and the Legislature have done good work on the Holtec issue.

“Nevada has fought off the rest of the country trying to open up a national dumpsite in its state for 32 years. With a relatively small population, small Congressional delegation, they just fought fiercely and New Mexico is going to have to do the same thing,” Kamps said.