New Mexico sets up roadblock to Holtec storage facility

March 21, 2023, 9:43AMRadwaste Solutions
A rendering of Holtec’s proposed HI-STORE CISF in New Mexico. (Image: Holtec)

New Mexico has passed legislation aimed at preventing Holtec International from constructing and operating a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in the state. On March 17, hours after being passed by the New Mexico House on a 35-28 vote, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 53, which prohibits the storage and disposal of radioactive waste in New Mexico without the state’s consent.

According to an AP report, five Democrats joined Republicans in voting against passage of the law, arguing that it challenges long-standing federal authority over nuclear safety matters and would lead to new court challenges. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to issue a decision on Holtec’s CISF license application in the coming weeks.

Community support: Siting a CISF in southeastern New Mexico has long had the support of local community leaders, who recognize its value in diversifying an economy largely dependent on the oil and gas industries. The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), which includes the cities of Hobbs and Carlsbad, worked with Holtec to submit its CISF license application to the NRC in 2017.

In a March 15 statement, the mayor of Carlsbad, Dale Janway, said that in response to past support the company has received at the local, state, and federal levels, Holtec has already spent $80 million on its NRC license application. A resolution in favor of the project was previously signed by former governor Susana Martinez, Janway further noted.

“Many members of this community have devoted thousands of hours over the past decade working in support of this project, because we believe in the importance of diversifying our economy and bringing more high-paying jobs to southeast New Mexico,” Janway said.

If approved, the Holtec HI-STORE CISF would eventually store up to 10,000 spent nuclear fuel canisters. The facility would be located on a site of about 1,000 acres of ELEA-owned land about 40 miles from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the Department of Energy’s geological repository for defense-related transuranic waste.

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