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.”
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.