Members of N.M. Congressional Delegation, Governor Send Letter To Energy Secretary Opposing Holtec Nuclear Waste Interim Storage Site In New Mexico

WASHINGTON (July 2, 2021) – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, and U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham 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.

“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,” they wrote.

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,” they continued.

The New Mexico lawmakers cautioned that, “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, Senator Heinrich raised his concerns about interim storage directly with Secretary 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 is available here and below:

Dear Secretary 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.  

Sincerely,

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