New Mexico backs Texas in opposition to nuclear fuel storage


Top New Mexico leaders say they are open to “almost anything” that would prevent the indefinite storage of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level waste in the state, including legislation like a measure recently passed by Texas to prevent the shipment and storage of such wastes.

The renewed criticism this week of planned temporary storage facilities in west Texas and southeast New Mexico came as federal regulators had just granted a license for the proposed operation in Texas.

Interim Storage Partners LLC plans to build a facility in Andrews County that could accommodate up to 5,000 metric tonnes of spent nuclear fuel rods from power plants and 231 million tonnes of other radioactive waste.

In New Mexico, Holtec International is awaiting approval of its license application for a facility that would initially store up to 8,680 tonnes of uranium. Future expansion could make way for up to 10,000 containers of used fuel over six decades.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democrat, and other senior officials have already submitted comments against the multibillion-dollar proposal on their side of the state border and against the Texas project. New Mexico is also suing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying it hasn’t done enough to verify Holtec’s plans.

Lujan Grisham’s office said it would be open to exploring legislation and seeking funding that could spur efforts by New Mexico regulators to administratively push back.

“We are open to almost anything to prevent the placement of this type of national high level waste repository in New Mexico,” Tripp Stelnicki, spokesperson for Lujan Grisham, told The Associated Press in an email. .

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said the case against the NRC was in its early stages and he still had concerns.

“As a largely poor state and with predominantly colored communities, it is unacceptable to view New Mexico as a dumping ground for the country’s nuclear waste,” he said. “And the Department of Energy, Congress and the Legislature should absolutely do everything in their power to protect New Mexican families.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, takes a similar stance and tweeted this week that “Texas will not become America’s nuclear waste dump.”

Holtec said the New Jersey-based company and its partners in Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico are committed to completing the federal regulatory process for the proposed facility.

“While we are aware of developments in Texas, the Holtec and ELEA (Eddy Lea Energy Alliance) project enjoys strong support from local community leaders as they understand that the proposed project is safe and will be of benefit. economic for the region, ”said Joe Delmar, senior director of government affairs and communications for the company.

Texas and New Mexico fear that waste could be stranded in their states because the federal government has failed for decades to find a permanent disposal site.

According to the Department of Energy, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 tons of radioactive waste per year, most of it staying put because there is nowhere else to put it.

The fuel sits in temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states, either locked in steel-lined concrete water pools or in steel and concrete containers called drums.

In the 1980s, the Department of Energy and Congress approved the construction of a permanent underground landfill site in Nevada. Authorities there fought the project there for years, and Congress cut funding for it in 2011. Federal approval was granted for a temporary landfill in Utah in 2006, but it was never built. .

New Mexico State Senator Jeff Steinborn, a Democrat who heads the Legislative Assembly’s Committee on Radioactive and Hazardous Materials, said passing new legislation would send “an unequivocal message” that region is against the storage of spent fuel.

The Biden administration has been vague at best on how it intends to address the issue, Steinborn said.

“What I would really love to hear is a commitment to go back to the drawing board to find a permanent solution,” he said. “Right now we have a situation where the tail is wagging the dog, where national policy is being enacted by a private company and a small handful of people who have decided that this is a good one. business opportunity.

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