The Impressive ‘Chorus’ of 0.11 Percent

The Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Sarah Halasz Graham claims that “voices of opposition” to Holtec’s International plan for a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in New Mexico have “coalesced into a chorus, their refrain reverberating throughout the state.”

Not exactly.

First, the 2,300 comments — “the overwhelming majority in opposition” — that have been submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regarding Holtec’s license application represent 0.11 percent of the state’s population. Some “chorus,” that.

Second, Errors of Enchantment‘s admittedly cursory review of the comments revealed that many are nothing more than cyberspace-based virtue signaling. They’re cut-and-paste jobs, using words and phrases provided by professional anti-nuclear activists.

Astroturfing “opposition” to all things nuclear is a common practice. In a 2014 final rulemaking on SNF storage, the NRC “received 33,099 comment submissions from organizations and individuals. Of those comments, 924 represented unique comment submissions and the remainder were considered form comments sponsored by various organizations.” Thus, “unique comment submissions” — i.e., people who might actually know what they’re talking about — comprised 2.8 percent of all feedback.

If Halasz Graham had chosen to do some digging, rather than lazily parrot the dodgy narrative that there is substantial “opposition” to Holtec’s planned investment in New Mexico, she’d have written a far more balanced article. (For example, she might have included the inconvenient fact that in 2016, New Mexico’s state legislators backed construction of the facility by a combined 77 to 27 — with Democratic and Republican, conservative and liberal, lawmakers in support.)

The good news is that Big Green’s hysterical hit job on Holtec isn’t likely to make much difference in the licensing process. The NRC examines the science and engineering of its applicants’ requests — not whether professional eco-alarmists, and their dupes, can stage an orgy of NIMBYism.

Many steps remain before SNF can make its way to the Land of Enchantment. Let’s hope that as the process moves forward, Halasz Graham and her colleagues do a better job covering a proposal that very few New Mexicans have expressed informed opposition to.

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2 Replies to “The Impressive ‘Chorus’ of 0.11 Percent”

  1. Holtec International is good business for New Mexico:

    With the recent public awareness of the proposed HI-STORE CISF in Southeast New Mexico (SENM) to store spent nuclear fuel (SNF), also known as high level radioactive waste, there has been an enormity amount the misinformation being spewed around. There are a few anti-nuclear environmentalist leading the charge of a lot of what-if’ers. Most of these people are wearing blinders so it will be extremely difficult to change their minds about the reality of radiation based on science verses the fear of radiation based on all the legacy myths since the 1950’s.

    It is not often a very successful and well respected international company wants to setup shop in New Mexico without demanding concessions like lengthy tax credits and huge subsidies. Here we have a company that is leading the industry with the best technology for safe and secure nuclear waste storage. Here we have a company with a proven track record not just in the country with the toughest nuclear regulatory laws, but worldwide. Here we have a company without a single safety incident to cause harm to the environment and the health of the surrounding community. And yet, there are those who are vehemently against Holtec International coming to New Mexico for only one reason – fear.

    The first thing I want to say is ‘thank you’ to the nuclear industry for saving all the unused nuclear fuel that is considered spent because it went through the nuclear reactor once and cannot be return to the same reactor as nuclear fuel. Then I want to thank Holtec International for taking on the task of developing the technology to store SNF in long term dry cask systems. The US Government has failed the nuclear industry in the US because of foolish policies regarding radiation. This notion that SNF has to be stored in deep repository underground for thousands of years was an extreme reaction to the misunderstanding of radiation following the days of discovering actinides beyond uranium and thorium.

    The current nuclear industry has use enriched natural uranium from the earth to manufacture solid nuclear fuel pellets for today’s water cooled reactors for over 70 years and now there are tons of deplete uranium (DU) left from the enrichment process. This DU, along with SNF, could easily power the world for centuries without ever having to mine another ounce if the newer advanced reactors are technically designed to consume it. And that is exactly what is on the horizon with the Elysium Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor (MCSFR) and others. These advanced reactors will have the ability to eventually consume the tons of alleged nuclear waste (SNF, DU, and even weapon grade plutonium) with a few pounds of radioactive isotopes leftover to manage.

    It only seems natural for New Mexico to expand it nuclear industry with HI-STORE CISF. After all, we already have WIPP (transuranic waste), URENCO (deplete nuclear fuel) and just across the border with Texas, Waste Control Specialist (low-level radioactive waste) that makes up a very narrow nuclear corridor. What is unique about the nuclear storage industry is that its small footprint doesn’t destroy the beauty of the New Mexico landscape with thousands of monstrous windmills and seas of black panels or doesn’t chop up and scar the landscape with thousands of oil wells with their pump jacks every few hundred yards. Now that is a lot of pollution that will have to be dealt with by the next generation of New Mexicans.

    Holtec International precedes SNF storage with their Proto-Prompt Decommissioning System. This process allows Holtec to completely decommission a nuclear power plant site within 8 years instead of the 60 years that the NRC allows. A very important component of the PPD system is the availability of an interim storage facility like the proposed HI-STORE CISF in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The funds from each site’s decommissioning trust will be transferred to Holtec upon closing and will be used by Holtec to cover the cost of the decommissioning. The trust fund was established decades ago to pay for decommissioning, and no additional funds from utility customers will be required. What other energy industry does that? None!

    Holtec International has acquired contracts to take over the next nuclear power plants destine for closure and decommissioning; Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in New Jersey, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Palisades Power Plant in Covert, Michigan, and the already decommissioned Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Plant near Charlevoix, Michigan. Holtec will become the owners of the SNF at each of these sites and will completely decontaminate and return the site back to nature with no trace of radiation beyond natural background. For those familiar with Rocky Flats, Colorado, the wild animal life are enjoying their new nature preserve. So are the critters at Chernobyl, where Holtec has an interim storage facility.

    Spent nuclear fuel is not nuclear waste. It is the fuel to generate electricity, desalinate saline waters, and provides special isotopes for the medical industry. It also has isotopes used to explore the depth of our oceans and probe the galaxies of our universe. Waste is only waste if it does not have a purpose.

    Holtec International, a world leader in the nuclear industry, offers New Mexico the opportunity to generate a steady stream of new revenues and high paying jobs without the burden of new business tax credit (like Facebook) or huge subsidies (like wind and solar). Oil and Gas has been in New Mexico for decades and it has been our cash cow only when it is healthy. For more detail about HoltecInternational.com, visit their web site.

  2. Here are my comments about the article:

    “In March 2017, Holtec applied for a 40-year license to build a first-of-its-kind, short-term repository for a vast cache of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel rods.” – This is not true. The first was in Humboldt, CA along the bay, the second is at San Orofre, CA along a earthquake fault line on the ocean front. The third is being built in Ukraine at Chernobyl only 83 miles from Kiev and it’s 3 million population. I would say the technology has to be safe.

    “Ultimately, though, the facility’s storage capacity would be … about 173,000 metric tons — large enough to house all of the nation’s commercial nuclear waste.” That is quite impressive about nuclear energy in general. There is so little waste and the industry saved every single atom. No other industry can say that, especially the fossil fuel industry.

    “The state and host communities also would share an incentive payment.” Are you kidding me. We don’t have to beg a business to come to New Mexico with long term tax credits and huge subsidies? The only incentive payment would be standard taxes and fees all company pay in New Mexico.

    “In mid-June, about 300 members of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association cast a unanimous vote opposing the project, citing concerns about radioactive material” Well, maybe someone should show these ranchers how the animal life in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl have survived and thieved since that little accident. Besides, there will not be an increase in background radiation if a rail car did skipped the track. Those ranchers should be more concerned about the drought. Why haven’t they been promoting desalination in New Mexico. There is plenty of saline water.

    “City councils in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Jal and Lake Arthur passed similar resolutions.” ABQ and LC are not anywhere near the site or the rail lines. Where is JAL when it comes to the destruction the O&G industry is doing to there community. I guess the money is worth it. Lake Arthur’s 400 residents might have a concern because the until train will cut through their small farming town.

    Just some thoughts on the article. Not much substance to it. When someone state a scientific reason instead of an emotional reason to oppose the project, I will listen.

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