Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Thomas Garcia
Senior Writer 

Family: Borehole not about money

Nara Visa’s James family say decision is about having input.


March 29, 2017

Money has nothing to do with why the James family of Nara Visa agreed to participate in a local borehole test, family members insist.

“We have received letters and calls asking us how much it will take to buy us out from being a part of this project,” said Elaine James.

Elaine said to date, the family has not received any form of monetary payment.

“They (company officials) have not even bought us dinner,” she said.

Her son, Don James, said the family is participating because “on our land, we will have more input and say to what goes on with the drilling.”

On state land, he said, the community would have less input regarding the project.

Elaine, her husband, Louis, and sons, Cody and Don, have been in the local spotlight since September for agreeing to let their land be one of four locations in the U.S. for the Department of Energy to drill boreholes for a test.

The Atlanta-based ENERCON and DOSECC Exploration Services of Salt Lake City, Utah, were selected by the DOE last month to begin exploring the possibility of conducting a deep borehole field test near Nara Visa. The ultimate goal is to determine if deep boreholes might offer a safe and practical alternative to mined geologic repositories for smaller forms of nuclear waste.

Otero County in Southern New Mexico, Pecos County in Texas and Haakon County in South Dakota are also being considered for the test drilling, because they share similar geologic similarities, according to a DOE press release.

Company officials say no nuclear waste will be brought into the county, but many area residents are saying they don’t believe them.

Elaine James said another reason they support the research project is the potential advancements in science and technology that may develop as a result. She said there have been numerous advancements in medicine and technology because of nuclear research and development.

“In all of the public meetings, nuclear waste coming to Quay County is the topic,” Elaine said. “Any benefits this project could have on the area is immediately overshadowed by the threat of nuclear waste.”

Cody said some area residents seem to think the research has been done, the test phase conducted and the DOE is ready to shove nuclear waste in the ground.

“I was also unaware the project had been awarded to the two companies or that we came to terms on a land lease agreement,” Cody said. The truth is, he said, the project is just in the discussion phase; the James family has not entered into any agreements with the DOE or the energy companies and has not been promised any compensation.

“Everyone has talked about our reasoning for being part of the project, yet we have only had one opportunity to talk about it during a public meeting,” said Louis James.

Cody said his family has been treated like lepers since the discussion began.

Elaine said it is the nuclear waste aspect that has gotten everyone so upset about the project, which has several phases, none of which will include the use or storage of nuclear waste.

“Despite any and all assurances by the companies and the scope of work outlined in detail, the panic remains and grows,” Don said.

Louis said the main objection expressed by the residents opposing the project centers around the opinion that allowing it to take place will open the door to nuclear waste storage in Quay County.

Cody said the family thought over for a while participating in a research project that may or may not be selected to occur in the county. He said while the family has weighed the pros and cons of the project, everyone else has already jumped forward about 30 years to a what-if scenario including nuclear waste.

Elaine said while the family has attended several of the public meetings, the last meeting they attended on March 13 in Dalhart, Texas, showed just how non-negotiable local residents have become.

“It’s the same people objecting at every meeting, who are also the only people who are allowed to speak without ridicule,” Elaine said. “If I or a member of my family starts to speak about our reasons for participating, we are cut off and told why we are doing it — the money.”

Louis said another issue that has been widely used in opposition to the project is saying the drilling will go through the Ogallala aquifer beneath their land, but the aquifer is not located beneath their land or the potential site.

“There is a tributary source of water that feeds the aquifer, but the drilling is not aimed at passing through that source,” Louis said.

“Listening to the people speaking, you would picture the drill passing straight through the main body of water of the aquifer,” Elaine said.

The project would include the drilling of one or two boreholes, each of which would be about three miles deep, according to DOSECC President Dennis Nielson, who said the first would be 8 1/2 inches wide. If successful, a second three-mile deep borehole, 17 inches wide would be drilled nearby.

Cody said if you Google the diameter of a nuclear fuel rod, considered high level waste, it ranges from 31 feet to 41 feet in diameter.

“I’m not a nuclear scientist or an engineer, but there may be an issue with trying to put a 31-foot-wide rod into a 17-inch-wide borehole,” he said.

Elaine said she would like to have a public forum in which the project can be discussed equally by both sides, moderated by a neutral party, so everyone has a chance to speak. She said in past meetings, if someone spoke in favor of the project, they were interrupted or immediately contradicted by the opposition.

Another resident-organized meeting was held at 7 p.m. Monday at the Tucumcari Convention Center. More than 140 attended the meeting that centered around opposition to the project.

Enercon and DOSECC officials and the James family did not attend the meeting.

The last meeting prior to Monday was on March 14 at the Logan Civic Center. Enercon and DOSECC officials and the James family did not attend.

“If we attend the (next) meeting, we would like to have a chance to speak the same way the three people who have been speaking in opposition to this project have at every meeting,” Elaine said.


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