There are proposals before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct an interim storage facility for our country’s high-level radioactive waste. This would involve transporting up to 173,000 metric tons of toxic material on our roads, rails, and waterways through our cities – and then storing them in a centralized location until a permanent solution can be found. On September 14, 2018, a coalition of seven environmental organizations filed a legal challenge with the NRC opposing the plans of Holtec International/Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) to construct and operate a centralized interim storage facility (CISF) for high-level radioactive waste in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec intends to store up to 173,000 metric tons of radioactive wastes, more than twice the amount that currently exists.

The coalition is represented by legal counsel Terry Lodge of Toledo, Ohio. The case is posted online at
http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/>. Link directly to the intervention here.

Organizations in the coalition are listed below.


Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (MI)

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (NY)

Don’t Waste Michigan

Nuclear Energy Information Service (IL)

Nuclear Issues Study Group (NM)

Public Citizen (DC, TX)

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (CA)

San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace (MFP) Spokesperson Molly Johnson summarized the strong opposition of MFP to CIS:

“Each nuclear waste shipment would contain more long-lived radioactivity than was released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. And although the transportation casks are heavily shielded, some radiation is emitted constantly, exposing anyone nearby. Even the lowest levels of radiation have health consequences, and those consequences are more serious for a fetus or a young person than for an adult.”

Such shipments, numbering in the tens of thousands, would pass through most states and many major cities. Dr. James David Ballard serves as an expert witness for the coalition. Dr. Ballard is a retired professor at California State University-Northridge’s Criminology and Justice Department. For decades he has authored cutting edge studies on the safety and security risks of transporting highly radioactive waste, His expert witness report has been posted online, here.

The coalition has objected that there is no federal authorization for Holtec/ELEA’s CISF.

The coalition has also objected to the redaction, for unexplained “security-related” reasons, of 25% of the Holtec Environmental Report, comprising the entire “Cultural Resources” chapter.

Another legal objection is that Holtec cannot provide reasonable assurances that it can obtain the necessary funds to cover the costs of construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of the CISF.

Additional contentions, or legal objections, are summarized below.

  • Holtec does not qualify for any exemptions from environmental protections under NRC regulations, as the site is not generic, but one of a kind;
  • The risks of fracking and mining beneath the CISF are substantial;
  • Plans for a highly polluting reprocessing facility associated with the Holtec CISF have been omitted from required cumulative effects analysis;
  • Holtec’s ‘Start Clean/Stay Clean’ policy of returning to sender any arriving shipping containers found to be leaking or radioactively contaminated is unlawful and directly threatens public health through transportation corridor communities in multiple states;
  • Missing documentation, including woefully inadequate disclosure of transportation routes, means the Holtec license application is fatally incomplete;
  • Holtec’s own internal contradictions for the length of so-called “interim” storage (the company has said 40 years, 100 years, 120 years, and 300 years at various points) is objectionable, and risks that the CISF could become a de facto permanent surface storage “parking lot dump”;
  • Geological and hydrological risks associated with the Holtec CISF site are unacceptable.

In addition to the contentions listed above, the coalition has incorporated by reference another 25 contentions introduced in opposition to the Holtec/ELEA CISF by the Sierra Club, represented by Iowa attorney Wally Taylor of the Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign. The Sierra Club intervention is posted online at http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/. Link directly to the petition and request, here.

In addition to the coalition and Sierra Club, Beyond Nuclear and Alliance for Environmental Strategies have also filed legal interventions opposing the Holtec/ELEA CISF. Their interventions (as well as a Beyond Nuclear motion to dismiss both the Holtec/ELEA application, and a very similar CISF application filed by Waste Control Specialists/Interim Storage Partners in Andrews County, West Texas, just 40 miles from the Holtec/ELEA CISF site) are posted at http://www.beyondnuclear.org/centralized-storage/

Holtec International, the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff (expected to be pro-CISF), have 25 days after September 14 to counter the coalition’s (and allied environmental group’s) intervention contentions. Seven days after that, the opponents to the CISF will respond to Holtec, ELEA, and NRC staff arguments. The NRC will appoint an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) three-person panel, comprised of administrative law judges (formerly known as hearing examiners), to preside over the licensing proceeding.

The September 14th legal intervention filings came six weeks after record-breaking public comment submissions to NRC expressing opposition to the Holtec/ELEA CISF. By NRC’s July 30 deadline, more than 30,000 public comments were submitted to the agency.

The NRC recently announced the re-commencement of yet another, previously suspended, licensing proceeding, regarding the WCS/ISP CISF proposal. Public comments are due by October 19, and legal interventions are due by October 29. Many of the same groups opposing Holtec/ELEA’s CISF, and perhaps additional ones, are expected to also oppose WCS/ISP’s CISF.