New Mexico’s ‘Nuclear Alley’ just says “No!” to More Radioactive Waste – EON Reports
The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 2018, HR 3053, known as the Shimkus Bill, passed the House last month on its way to the Senate.
It calls for restarting the failed Yucca Mountain Project in Nevada, and establishing a system of Consolidated Interim Storage (CIS) sites for radioactive waste around the country until Yucca is operational.
First on the list of possible ‘temporary’ CIS dumps is a site proposed by Holtec International and the local Eddy-Lea Alliance just outside Hobbs, New Mexico.
Its just over the border from Andrews, Co., Texas – where another high level nuke waste dump is also proposed.
Beginning with the Trinity Test that began the Atomic Age in 1945, and followed by other bomb tests, as well as the devistating impact of uranium mining on its Native American population, New Mexico is already seen by some as a de facto 'national nuclear sacrifice area.'
The region in which the proposed dump would be located is already known to the local population as 'nuclear alley.'
The Uranco uranium enrichment plant is nearby. It supplies much of the fuel for U.S. power reactors.
Just down the road is the troubled Waste Issolation Pilot Project, WIPP. Touted to contain radioactive waste safely for a thousand years, it suffered a fire and explosion after only 15 years of operation, releasing plutonium and other deadly radioactive materials into the environment, and contaminating at least 22 workers.
Proponents of the Holtec/Eddy-Lea dump project tout it as an economic boon for the region. Opponents see as it a public health and environmental disaster.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) scheduled five meeting around New Mexico to record public opinion on the issues.
The EON team traveled there to cover those meetings as part of our forthcoming documentary series segments SHUTDOWN – The Case of San Onofre. If the dump is opened, it could become the destination of the waste currently being buried on the beach at San Onofre.
We wanted to see if, as the Holtec dump proponents claim, there is strong local support for the project. And we wanted to express our solidarity with those in opposition.
We found that, in fact, all around the state, public opinion runs 5-1 against the project.
Planned to eventually hold more metric tons of waste than Yucca itself will be designed for, the Hobbs site could well become America’s de facto national dump site, if Yucca never gets built.
At a recent series of Nuclear Regulatory Commission community meetings on the proposed site, opposition was strong from many of New Mexico and Texas public sectors.
One of them was the currently booming oil and gas fracking industry, but opposition from the region's tribes, ranchers, growers and general population is also overwhelmingly 'against.'
They have mounted a growing 'Halt Holtec' campaign whose motto is 'We Don't Want It!'
Below are a series of excerpts from some of the NRC meetings we covered. The opinions expressed are representative of majority sentiments around the state.
We were not the only Californian's who traveled to New Mexico to express solidarity with local opposition efforts. More on that in our blog post, 'The California-New Mexico Connection.'