Home State/Regional News Democrat members of N.M. congressional delegation oppose Holtech site

Democrat members of N.M. congressional delegation oppose Holtech site

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., along with U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M. CD-2, sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm opposing the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level waste (HLW) in New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was also quick to sign onto the letter.

Granholm is a Canadian immigrant who served two terms as governor of Michigan before being named DOE Secretary under President Joe Biden.

“There is currently no permanent disposal strategy for SNF and HLW in place at the Department of Energy. This leaves us extremely concerned that ‘interim’ storage sites with initial 40-year leases, like one proposed for Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing in New Mexico, will become the country’s de facto permanent nuclear waste storage facilities. We cannot accept that result,” the letter stated.

There are currently two pending applications before the NRC for licenses to construct and operate consolidated interim storage facilities – one in Lea County, and one in Andrews, Texas, just across the state line where it would potentially have the same impact in southeastern New Mexico, but without additional revenue to the state.

“Without a strategy in place at the Department of Energy for permanent waste disposal, any CISF constructed in or near New Mexico could become a waste storage site that is, in essence, permanent. New Mexico has not, and will not consent to such a situation,” the letter continued.

The New Mexico lawmakers cautioned, “We cannot repeat such harms by establishing interim nuclear waste storage sites, especially without a permanent waste disposal strategy. We would welcome collaborative work to establish a coherent, consent-based federal policy on managing and disposing of SNF and HLW, and look forward to engaging in that work with you.”

Last month, Heinrich, known for his environmental activism, raised concerns about interim storage directly with Granholm during a senate energy and natural resources hearing to review the president’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The full text of the letter rads:

Dear Sec. Granholm,

We are strongly opposed to the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level waste (HLW) in New Mexico. There is currently no permanent disposal strategy for SNF and HLW in place at the Department of Energy. This leaves us extremely concerned that “interim” storage sites with initial 40-year leases, like one proposed for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing in New Mexico, will become the country’s de facto permanent nuclear waste storage facilities. We cannot accept that result.

As you have recognized, the consent of those affected is a critical component of any approach to nuclear waste storage. There are currently two pending applications before the NRC for licenses to construct and operate consolidated interim storage facilities (CISFs) – one in Andrews, Texas, and one in Lea County, New Mexico. Without a strategy in place at the Department of Energy for permanent waste disposal, any CISF constructed in or near New Mexico could become a waste storage site that is, in essence, permanent. New Mexico has not and will not consent to such a situation.

New Mexico is proud to host Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The people of New Mexico have long been at the forefront of our national security mission and the discovery of nuclear science and technologies. Unfortunately, in some cases, this has resulted in situations that have harmed the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans. We cannot repeat such harms by establishing interim nuclear waste storage sites, especially without a permanent waste disposal strategy. We would welcome collaborative work to establish a coherent, consent-based federal policy on managing and disposing of SNF and HLW, and look forward to engaging in that work with you.

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