Lack of New Mexico say in nuclear waste project draws ire
Aug. 02, 2018
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The chair of a New Mexico legislative committee that monitors radioactive and hazardous materials in the state says he finds it troubling Attorney General Hector Balderas has concluded the state cannot legally stop a New Jersey-based company from the building a nuclear waste storage facility.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said Wednesday the state should have a say about the proposal and that he was disappointed in the attorney general's opinion, The Hobbs News-Sun reports .
"It's troubling that a project of this magnitude with this much exposure to the state — I mean exposure in the sense of the hazardous materials involved and long-term ramifications of it being here — that our state would not have a say in being able to approve it or not," said Steinborn, who chairs interim Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee.
Balderas said in a letter last month the state cannot legally stop Holtec International from temporarily storing up to 100,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico.
Balderas cited the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and two court cases clearly establishing two principles.
"(F)irst, that the NRC has the statutory authority to license and regulate consolidated interim nuclear waste storage facilities, and secondly, that the comprehensiveness of that federal regulatory scheme pre-empts virtually any state involvement," Balderas wrote.
Holtec International, a New Jersey-based company specializing in nuclear storage, has applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to construct a nuclear waste storage facility about 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of Carlsbad.
The facility, to be located in western Lea County, could eventually store up to 10,000 shipments of spent nuclear fuel, as much as 120,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste, from nuclear power plants around the country. It would be stored just below the surface.
The facility is intended to be a temporary storage site, storing nuclear waste only until a permanent storage facility can be built. But opponents fear that it could become permanent because plans for a long-term repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, have stalled because of opposition.