New Mexico governor vows that state will not accept spent fuel

July 18, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News

In response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recommendation to issue a license to Holtec International for the construction of an interim nuclear waste storage site in southeastern New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement condemning the regulatory agency as “effectively choosing profit over public interest.”

The NRC’s tentative approval: The NRC earlier this month tentatively approved Holtec’s proposal to store as much as 100,000 metric tons of high-level spent nuclear fuel amid oil and natural gas wells in a remote area near the Eddy-Lea county line. The site is intended to be temporary until a permanent national repository for nuclear waste is approved. The NRC recommended approval of the site based on an environmental review, but issuance of the license is still subject to the results of a further safety review.


The governor’s objections: The core of Grisham’s statement focused on her concerns for the health—physical, environmental, and economic—of the state and the people of New Mexico. She stated, “The NRC has unilaterally decided to house the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico, despite the fact that our state has not one nuclear power plant within its borders. And while the NRC and Holtec International say that the proposal is ‘temporary,’ a 40-year license with the opportunity for renewal will threaten the health and safety of generations of New Mexicans.”

Grisham vowed that New Mexico will not become “a dumping ground for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.” She called on the state legislature to send her a proposal to protect New Mexico from “becoming the de facto home” of U.S. nuclear waste.

Texas joins the fight: Grisham is not the only political figure who objects to the NRC issuing license recommendations and approvals for nuclear waste sites in the region. Gov. Greg Abbott (R., Texas) and Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) have both criticized the NRC for issuing a license to Interim Storage Partners for housing high-level nuclear waste amid oil fields at a facility on the Texas-New Mexico border, arguing that such storage could impede the fossil fuel industry.

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