The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Diane Curran, Harmon, Curran, Spielberg + Eisenberg, LLP, (240) 393-9285,;

Mindy Goldstein, Director, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University School of Law, (404) 727-3432,;

Kevin Kamps, Radioactive Waste Specialist, Beyond Nuclear, (240) 462-3216,

Beyond Nuclear Vows to Fight on Against Illegal High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump Targeted at New Mexico

 Atomic Safety and Licensing Board winks at acknowledged violations of federal law

TAKOMA PARK, MD and Southeastern NM

In an astounding ruling today, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) acknowledged that an application by Holtec International/Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance to store 173,600 metric tons of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico violates federal law, but nevertheless dismissed Beyond Nuclear's legal challenge on the ground that Holtec could be depended on not to implement the unlawful provision if the license were granted.

At page 32-33 of its ruling, the ASLB stated:

"...the Board assumes Holtec will honor its commitment not to contract unlawfully with DOE to store any other spent nuclear fuel (that is, the vast majority of spent fuel from commercial reactors, which is currently owned by the nuclear power companies). Likewise, we assume DOE would not be complicit in any such unlawful contracts."

Mindy Goldstein, a lawyer for Beyond Nuclear stated, "Holtec, Beyond Nuclear, and the NRC all agree that a fundamental provision in the Holtec application violates the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Today, the Licensing Board decided that the violation did not matter. But, the Board cannot ignore the mandates of federal law." Indeed, the Administrative Procedure Act prohibits an agency from acting contrary to the law as issued by Congress and signed by the President. "NRC may be an independent agency, but it is not above the law." Goldstein said.

Goldstein said this is the second time the NRC has issued a decision overruling Beyond Nuclear's objection to NRC consideration of the unlawful application, and that the group will continue to pursue a federal court appeal it filed on December 27, 2018.

Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste specialist for Beyond Nuclear, called the federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act "the public's best protection against an interim storage facility becoming a de facto permanent, national radioactive waste dump at the surface of the Earth." Under the Act, the federal government may not take title to spent (i.e., used) reactor fuel unless and until a permanent repository has opened. In violation of the Act, Holtec's application assumes that the U.S. Department of Energy may take title to the spent fuel to be stored at the interim facility, which lies halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs. (Spent nuclear fuel is irradiated and highly radioactive.)

"As former New Mexico U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman has put it so well, opening a consolidated interim storage facility without an operating permanent repository risks so-called 'temporary' becoming de facto permanent. That is the carefully crafted wisdom of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, to protect a state like New Mexico from being screwed by the powerful nuclear industry, its friends in the federal government, and other states looking to off-load their mountain of forever deadly high-level radioactive waste," said Kamps, radioactive waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear.

"On behalf of our members and supporters in New Mexico, and across the country along the road, rail, and waterway routes in most states, that would be used to haul the high risk, high-level radioactive waste out West, we will appeal today's bad ruling," Kamps added.

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

(301) 270-2209