The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held public meetings in Hobbs, NM and Andrews, TX last week. Both were well attended and included two hours of public comments. The comments were generally more about if the commenter thought the project was a good idea or not, even though the meetings were designed to get comments on the scope of the environmental review. You’ll note that I didn’t say “local community” as many of the “commenters”, particularly the detractors, were not residents of Hobbs or Andrews. Nonetheless I heard several items that I believe are worth revisiting in the blog this week.
I heard that if WCS builds the consolidated interim storage facility (CISF), the taxpayer will be on the hook for the waste. Unfortunately, the taxpayers are already on the hook for the waste. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was contractually committed to pick up the fuel from nuclear power plants starting in 1998. They didn’t, so utilities have been suing DOE and collecting millions of dollars from the U.S. Judgment fund, which comes out of the taxpayers’ pockets – not the electric ratepayer’s pockets. Building a CISF will actually allow DOE to meet their commitments and have the cost paid by ratepayers instead of taxpayers. Whether you support interim storage or not, there is no question that it will save the taxpayers billions of dollars since the judgment liability payments are increasing to over $25 billion according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
I’m a little surprised that we still hear there is water at WCS and there could be more water in the future with climate change. We’ve heard that for decades and we drilled over 600 borings to prove we don’t have drinkable groundwater. One longtime resident of Andrews noted that there were over 20,000 holes drilled in Andrews County and he was confident that WCS was dry. We have a few isolated pockets of shallow (less than 50 feet from surface) water, which are not connected to each other or the Ogallala aquifer, and we have proven that with science. Those who claim otherwise don’t have data or facts to support their position. We also heard that with climate change, the WCS site could become wet. We did modeling for our low-level radioactive waste facilities that showed even with more rainfall, WCS would not be a wet site.
It was a surprise when a local commenter said WCS had not provided information about our project. We have tried to be very transparent and provided as much information as possible on our www.WCSstorage.com website. Obviously, we need to do a better job of outreach. We will work on that.
We also do our best to try and keep fresh content on WCSstorage.com, which motivates me to blog consistently. We’ll also have a new content up on the website in the next few weeks. So I encourage all interested parties to check in on it regularly.
Transportation also got a lot of attention, but I think that deserves its own blog next week.
We appreciated the time that NRC and others spent in the area and I’m sure the local economies appreciated the dollars spent as well. We think our CISF project addresses all of the challenges raised by the commenters and is a good project for the nation, our local communities and our employees who will handle the waste.