Public can request federal hearings on Holtec proposal for nuclear storage
Members of the public were invited to request adjudicatory hearings from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regarding a proposed facility that would store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel rods near Carlsbad and Hobbs.
Requests must be filed by the Sept. 14 deadline, read a Wednesday news release from the NRC.
The notice was published in the Federal Register on Monday, providing guidelines on how to petition for a hearing, and the requirements of applicants.
Once received, the commission will review the petition, and determine if a hearing should be set.
Petitioners must explain their connection to the project, and the impact of any decision on their property or safety, read the notice.
Applicants must also include specific contentions they hope to litigate in the proceedings, along with evidence of studies that support such disputes.
“Contentions must be limited to matters within the scope of the proceeding,” read the Federal Register notice. “The contention must be one which, if proven, would entitle the petitioner to relief.”
If permitted to hold the hearing, petitioners are allowed to participate in the entire hearing, with respect to their initial concerns.
“Those permitted to intervene become parties to the proceeding, subject to any limitations in the order granting leave to intervene,” read the notice.
“Parties have the opportunity to participate fully in the conduct of the hearing with respect to resolution of that party’s admitted contentions, including the opportunity to present evidence, consistent with the NRC’s regulations, policies, and procedures.”
Aside from concern residents or activist groups, state or local governments and federally-recognized Native American tribes are eligible to request hearings or to be part to a hearing.
Those who are not parties in the hearing, could be permitted a “limited appearance,” read the release, by making an oral statement, or submitting it in writing, but being uninvolved in the rest of the proceeding.
Submissions can be made through the NRC (at http://www.nrc.gov/site-help/e-submittals.html) online, and responses are expected 10 days ahead of the filing deadline.
Holtec international proposed building a surface-level facility near the Eddy-Lea county line to hold temporarily hold spent nuclear fuel rods while a permanent repository is developed.
The only proposed permanent storage space was at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but that facility stalled in recent years due to opposition from state lawmakers and federal funding cuts.
Holtec first submitted its license application to the NRC in March 2017, and it was accepted one year later.
The NRC's public scoping period, when it gathers public opinions from impact communities to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS), was scheduled to end on July 30.
The acceptance sparked a debate between activists in opposition, local governments and Holtec officials.
Many worried the site could become permanent, with a capacity to hold up to 120,000 metric tons of the waste beneath southeast New Mexico indefinitely.
Supporters insisted the facility would remain an “interim” storage site needed to move the waste away from generator sites near densely populated areas and large bodies of water.
Activists contended the facility’s design could present multiple safety problems, but Holtec officials argued the company has operated similar, albeit smaller, facilities across the county – usually at or near generator sites.
Holtec President Chris Singh said the facility would be robust enough to withstand natural disasters, and secure against terrorist or other attacks.
“The storage cavities are designed to withstand any punishment that nature can throw at them without yielding even a microgram of nuclear matter to the environment,” he wrote in a letter to State Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee.
Steinborn sent 57 questions to multiple state agencies as a result of the committee's first hearing, but did not get responses as each agency deferred to the NRC or Holtec.
The committee held its second hearing Thursday, in Hobbs.
“I have learned that a tiny band of misinformed activists have descended on New Mexico to disrupt the project,” Singh wrote. “This group does not have a stake in the economic well-being of the local people.
"They seem to be bent on spreading lies and innuendos and slaughtering the truth with impunity.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.