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CARLSBAD, NM, February 04, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The President's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future issued its final report in January, and Carlsbad and Eddy County officials say Southeast New Mexico's salt beds should play a key role in the country moving forward with the BRC's suggestions.
The BRC has concluded its two-year assessment, which began in the wake of the Obama administration's decision to cancel the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada. Yucca Mountain was to become the nation's primary and permanent storage site for spent commercial nuclear reactor fuel and high level defense and government wastes. Carlsbad and Eddy County officials believe the BRC's report lends credence to Southeast New Mexico being the successor to Yucca Mountain.
"First of all, I applaud the BRC's extensive and objective look into America's nuclear future," said Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. "Last January, the BRC paid a visit to Carlsbad and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, which I feel was the most important trip of the organization's extensive search across the entire globe. There have been decades of speculation about what to do with our nuclear waste, but for the past 13 years now WIPP has actually been cleaning up our nuclear waste."
The Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is an underground-repository for defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste. More than 11,000 shipments of TRU waste have been made to WIPP from around the country, and TRU waste has been completely removed at 21 locations. Waste is permanently disposed of in salt beds 2,150 feet below the surface. Janway said the BRC's report to the President made frequent reference to WIPP's success story.
"The BRC's absolute first recommendation is a consent-based approach to citing future nuclear waste management facilities," noted Janway. "WIPP has always received extensive support from Carlsbad, Eddy County and our neighbors, and it's clear that message was not lost on the BRC. WIPP has also been at the head of the class in terms of operational success." The BRC's recommendations also included prompt efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities and prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities.
"The conclusion that disposal is needed and that deep geologic disposal is the scientifically preferred approach has been reached by every expert panel that has looked at the issue and by every other country that is pursuing a nuclear waste management program," the BRC report noted.
"As the President moves forward with examining the BRC's recommendations, I hope he pays close attention to the salt beds of Southeastern New Mexico," said Jody Knox, president of the Carlsbad Department of Development. "Given our nation's budget concerns, we have to make smart decisions about where a repository should be located. A repository in the salt beds near WIPP would take advantage of the medium's self-sealing qualities and reduce lifecycle costs of a repository by billions of dollars when compared to disposal in other mediums."
Carlsbad and Eddy County are currently working with neighboring Hobbs and Lea County in attempting to locate an interim storage facility in a remote area between the two municipalities. Spent nuclear fuel currently at locations such as New York and California would be safely consolidated at such a facility.
"I strongly support the BRC's recommendation of developing one or more interim storage facilities," said John Heaton, chair of Carlsbad's nuclear task force. "Consolidation is by far the safest, most practical and most economically viable approach. Technology and procedures exist to ensure that spent fuel can safely be transported and consolidated in a remote location, away from fault lines, population centers and oceans."
Heaton said he feels the Department of Energy should also be a part of an interim storage plan.
"The DOE is currently looking at constructing two $100 million dollar facilities that will store high level waste in the form of a glass matrix," he said. "That money could be spent much more effectively by supporting a consolidated interim storage facility. A buy-in from the DOE would also go a long way in bolstering efforts to clean up civilian waste."
The BRC's final report added a call for an expansion of the federal transportation plan involving nuclear waste. The report mostly focused on suggestions for handling civilian waste, but the Commission strongly encouraged the expansion of the transportation plan be modeled after the WIPP transportation protocols.
"Eddy County has proven that involving local governments and citizens in the planning and oversight process leads to a successful mission. Community support and involvement in every step of the process, especially emergency services and transportation, is absolutely essential." said Roxanne Lara, Eddy County Commissioner and Energy Communities Alliance Secretary. "The BRC recognized the importance of this model. The bottom line is that Southeast New Mexico has the knowledge, the location and the desire to be a solution to this nation's nuclear waste problem. Let's get moving."
Heaton agreed, noting that the country could begin disposing of defense high level waste immediately. The BRC report urges the Administration to launch an immediate review of the implications of leaving responsibility for disposal of defense waste and other DOE-owned waste within DOE.
"Defense high level waste is old, cold and worthless," he said. "I think the ideal would be a phased approach, where we begin disposing of high level waste in a repository while research and political dialog continue related to spent fuel. In the meantime, spent fuel needs to be safely consolidated."
The Carlsbad Department of Development is a member supported non-profit organization. Members represent over 100 chief executive officers in industry, business and finance, the City of Carlsbad, Eddy County Board of Commissioners, New Mexico State University-Carlsbad, and other organizations. The Carlsbad Department of Development is your first contact for business assistance in Carlsbad and Eddy County.
The Carlsbad Department of Development promotes the economic and general welfare of the citizens of the City of Carlsbad and South Eddy County, New Mexico.
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