Hullabaloo and Hysteria Over Holtec

Sitting at last night’s U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting in Albuquerque, neuroscientist Sam Harris‘s term “epistemological potlatch” came to mind.

How better to describe the embarrassingly rude display of ignorance put on by New Mexico “environmentalists,” attacking Holtec International‘s application to build and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel?

Conspiracy theories, accusations of “environmental racism,” decades-old grievances that have nothing to do with Holtec’s proposal — radical eco-leftists wasted four hours of regulators’ time, posturing and preening and playing to the crowd, in a pathetic attempt to keep Lea County from landing an economic-development project that promises to create jobs, generate tax revenue, and further enhance the Land of Enchantment’s status as a nuclear “cluster.”

Fracking! Terrorism! Power failures! Civil unrest! Mother Earth! Deregulation! A small bomb dropped from a drone! “What would Mr. Rogers do?” Pesticides! GMOs! Hydrogen explosions! There is no safe level of radiation! We will “fight your capitalism”! What about the puppies of Chernobyl!!! (Will we, one day, have to put “lead-lined sweaters on our dogs” to take them for walks?)

It was abundantly clear that that the 64 (out of 70) speakers who opposed Holtec had little, if any, knowledge of nuclear science, engineering, law, regulation, or economics. (Hey, reading those license-application documents is hard. The environmental report alone is 482 pages long!)

Rey Garduño, a former Albuquerque city councilor, thundered: “This stuff kills! It will kill every one of us!” Juan Reynosa, of the SouthWest Organizing Project, denounced the “white men” who were “coming into our state, trying to inflict violence on our people.” One virtue-signaler teared up a bit. (“I, as a white, Anglo male, have to ask forgiveness….”) One particularly unhinged protester claimed that “every single life form” on Earth is “dying.”

Six bold commenters — including the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance’s John Heaton and a very brave college student studying for a career in the nuclear industry — supported Holtec’s application. Their remarks were met, predictably, with hissing and harrumphing. (It’s that 95 percent of “greens” who give the other 5 percent such a bad reputation.)

The NRC’s commenting events offer free group-therapy sessions for eco-chondriacs. But as Errors of Enchantment noted yesterday, regulation of nuclear facilities is not a democratic process. Provided that Holtec’s plan meets NRC standards for safety and environmental protection, a license will be issued.

The Rio Grande Foundation is finalizing its response to the NRC’s request for comments on its review of Holtec’s application. We’ll be posting our analysis online soon. Spoiler alert: It won’t mention the puppies of Chernobyl.

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4 Replies to “Hullabaloo and Hysteria Over Holtec”

  1. When the Three Mile Island incident took place, I was watching the TV news coverage in the officers’ club at the Norfolk, VA, naval base. Several nuclear submarine officers were seated at the next table and I watched their reaction.

    Nuclear submarine officers are highly educated and rigorously screened: Precisely the kind of focused, unflappable people you want operating our nuclear deterrent. They’re serious guys and are not as much fun to drink with as fighter pilots.

    When these guys saw the hysterical TV coverage of the nuclear incident they burst out laughing. When there’s an issue about nuclear reactors, I trust the guys who sleep next to them.

  2. This is the first I have heard of a consolidated spent fuel facility being planned for New Mexico and I am in approval.

    I have been a hazardous waste chemist for 34 years and for 4 years worked as the radioactive waste manger for a laboratory that tested radioactive material samples.

    I am not concerned with the economic factors, or the political factors of the debate. My concern is for the viability of the project and the stability of the storage methods.

    Yes, spent nuclear fuel rods are bad. But just like any waste, they have to be placed somewhere. This facility will be as secure as possible. The storage methods are impenetrable. The environmental conditions are perfect. America has needed a storage facility for this material for 40 years. This is the best option.

    I really hope that the “debate” is not decided solely on the basis of who can shriek the most hysterically, and utter the most bombastic absurdities.

    Oh, did I forget to mention that for several years I was qualified to prepare high level rad shipments for transport? I’m talking about the Highway Route Controlled kinds of shipments. The heavy duty stuff.

    No CO2 was harmed in the production of this comment.

  3. And these are folks who want solar PV everywhere but are ignorant of the toxic waste that will accumulate as their service lives expire: cadmium, chromium, lead, antimony–neurotoxins that will persist in the environment forever.

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