The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission yesterday issued its final environmental impact statement for Holtec International’s proposal to build an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Lea County. The facility would be located approximately halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs and the license would authorize the initial phase of the project to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium in 500 canisters for a license period of 40 years (although Holtec plans to request license amendments to expand the number of canisters). In response to the report, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement accusing the NRC of “effectively choosing profit over public interest,” noting the opposition to the project from herself, “tribal leaders, local governments and the people of New Mexico.”
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway and Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb, in statements issued by Holtec, praised the report saying, in the case of Janway, the report shows the facility “will have no negative impact on our community…Holtec has been a true partner on this important project, and we look forward to continuing to work together to bring jobs and economic growth to the area.” Lujan Grisham, on the other hand, says a 40-year license, with the option of renewal, threatens generations of New Mexicans’ health and safety. “The state of New Mexico will not become a dumping ground for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel due to Congress’s failure to identify a permanent disposal solution for commercial nuclear waste,” she says. “My message to the state Legislature is clear: Deliver a proposal to my desk that protects New Mexico from becoming the de facto home of the country’s spent nuclear fuel and it will have my full support.” Members of the state’s congressional delegation, including US Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, both Democrats, oppose the project as well. Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety provided an overview of the proposal in a recent podcast.