Possible nuclear waste storage site raises concerns | KOB 4
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Possible nuclear waste storage site raises concerns

Casey Torres
July 26, 2018 03:26 PM

HOBBS, N.M. - There’s a chance more than 100,000 tons of nuclear waste could be stored underground, between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

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There is currently no long-term depository for spent nuclear fuel.

On Thursday, the Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee of the New Mexico Legislature heard the concerns of southeast New Mexico residents, business owners, and local officials.

At the Central of Recreational Excellence (CORE), people were trying to figure out if it’s safe to keep the nuclear waste underground, at least temporarily.

Holtec International has sent an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a consolidated interim storage facility for the radioactive nuclear waste.

Joy Russell, Chief Communications Officer for Holtec International said the application is to run the storage for 40 years. She said 10,000 canisters filled with the waste could be kept underground for up to 120 years.

One of the main concerns the public had, was the railroad transportation.

Some residents worry there might be a crash and radiation will escape the canisters if they are damaged.

“The transportation casks that are used for moving spent nuclear fuel are heavy by design and that is to provide the shielding that is necessary to contain the radiation,” Russell said.

During the hearing, Russell reassured the public that the canisters were made of stainless steel, basically making them indestructible.

She also said the fuel is not liquid, but solid, so it won’t leak.

The other concern is what would happen to the waste after Holtec’s license to run the facility expires in 40 years.

Residents worry the waste will be forgotten and kept in New Mexico forever.

“Then we will reapply and fulfill our obligations through agent management protocols and other mechanisms to demonstrate that these canisters continue to perform their function,” Russell said.

The NRC will be deciding if the application will be approved or denied in about two years.

“It’s very safe. It’s seismically inactive. It’s dry. Even the lizards don’t quit out there,” a Carlsbad resident said.

The NRC will be accepting online comments until July 30th.

If the application is approved, Russell said construction for the facility will begin in July of 2020 and be fully operational by 2023. Afterward, Holtec could start accepting about 10,000 tons of nuclear waste a year.

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Casey Torres

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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