WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) issued the following statement in response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of Holtec International’s application to site, construct, and operate storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico.
“Today the Nuclear Regulatory Commission used ‘interim’ standards to approve indefinite nuclear storage in New Mexico. No matter how many times NRC and Holtec use the word ‘interim,’ it doesn’t make it so. And the people left to pay the consequences will be New Mexicans,” said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Until there is a permanent repository for our nation’s spent nuclear fuel, no regulatory commission should be using ‘interim’ standards to approve ‘indefinite’ storage. New Mexicans didn’t sign up for this.”
“I have been strongly opposed to the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste in New Mexico, which would pose serious risks to our communities. But today’s announcement paves the way for New Mexico to be home for indefinite storage of spent nuclear fuel. This approach – over the objections of many local, state, and federal leaders – is unacceptable," said Senator Luján.
“Nuevo Mexicanos are no strangers to environmental injustices, especially those related to nuclear testing and waste. I oppose the licensing of a “temporary” storage facility when there are no permanent sites available. This license makes New Mexico a permanent sacrifice zone. Our beautiful home should not be a dumping ground for nuclear waste. We have a responsibility to protect our communities, environment, and industries,” said Leger Fernández.
“New Mexico and our communities have long borne the brunt of our nation’s nuclear program and waste. I strongly oppose today’s announcement by the NRC to approve a license allowing Holtec International to build a nuclear waste facility in our state," said Stansbury. "Our communities are not a dumping ground for the nation’s nuclear waste. We need a comprehensive and permanent solution for safe storage. That’s why I was proud to join members of the New Mexico delegation as an original cosponsor of federal legislation to block companies like Holtec from using taxpayer dollars to proceed with nuclear waste facilities in New Mexico and stand with our Governor and Legislature which recently passed legislation requiring state consultation and consent. I look forward to working with our federal, state, and local partners to develop a permanent solution and to support communities impacted by nuclear activities in New Mexico.”
“Today’s decision fails to address the most critical issue that we face: the permanent, and long-term storage of nuclear waste,” Vasquez said. “This decision only prolongs that process but puts New Mexicans at risk. We should instead continue to focus on growing southeast New Mexico’s economy with safe, good-paying jobs that support our agriculture, outdoor recreation, tourism and energy economies.”
In June 2021, Senator Heinrich raised his concerns about the Holtec application
to build a temporary storage facility during his questioning of Secretary Granholm at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Hearing on the Department’s FY2022 Budget Request.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich said to Secretary Granholm, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently assessing whether to give a private corporation a 40 year license to construct and operate an interim storage facility in New Mexico. As I have discussed with you in the past, unless DOE fulfills its statutory responsibility to provide permanent waste disposal, interim sites can become permanent sites. That is not something that my state has signed up for.”
In March 2022, Senator Heinrich joined U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and August Pfluger (R-Texas) to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation
to prevent private interim nuclear waste storage sites from becoming de facto permanent nuclear waste storage facilities. Both New Mexico and Texas have objected to the placement of these storage facilities in their states.
In May 2020, Senator Heinrich joined members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation
to call for an extension on the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Holtec's proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility in southeastern New Mexico amid the Covid-19 pandemic and to raise a number of health, safety, and environmental concerns about Holtec’s proposal.