A proposed storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in West Texas near the New Mexico border will have no impact on the environment, per a federal report released Thursday.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its final environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposal by Interim Storage Partners, a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano USA, to build a storage facility for the waste at WCS’ facility in Andrews, Texas.
The proposal would ultimately bring about 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods from reactors across the county to be stored on a temporary basis while a permanent repository is developed.
The initial license application was for 5,000 metric tons, but the company voiced its plans to expand the facility to hold more waste.
These concerns were like those voiced for another temporary storage site over the border in New Mexico, where Holtec International proposed building its facility to hold more than 100,000 metric tons of the waste at a remote location between Carlsbad and Hobbs.
Both sites were within the oil-rich Permian Basin and government leaders cautioned they could risk other major industries like fossil fuel extraction and agriculture.
But in its environmental analysis for both the ISP and Holtec projects, the NRC found no risk to the environment.
New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said his state’s administration was also against the Texas site, as it could risk New Mexicans due to its location near the states’ border.
“I think the administration has been clear that New Mexico is not the right state for spent nuclear fuel,” Kenney said. “Nor do we believe placing it five miles over the border in Texas is right for New Mexico. There’s no difference in the risk.”
Because of its proximity to the Texas border, lawmakers argued the Holtec site would also put Texas at risk should it be allowed to open.
“Both projects are illegal under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act since no U.S. repository exists. Both would result in transport of radioactive waste through Texas. Both licenses should be denied,” the letter read.
“Bringing this nuclear reactor waste to Texas and New Mexico would result in dangerous de-facto permanent dumps.”
In its resolution approved in April 2017 when the company first filed for its license, Dallas County opposed the facility as the waste would likely be transported to the ISP facility via rail through the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area.
“Our lives, land and aquifers must be protected from radioactive contamination which could result from accidents, radiation releases or leaks or terrorist actions during thousands of spent nuclear fuel waste shipments that could occur for a period of 24 years if consolidated storage is licensed,” the resolution read.