RadWaste Monitor Vol. 16 No. 12
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March 24, 2023

New Mexico bans spent fuel storage

By Dan Leone

New Mexico on Friday legalized a ban on the storage of spent nuclear fuel in the state, potentially complicating Holtec International’s proposal to build a spent-fuel storage depot there.

On Friday, the state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 53 by a margin of 35 to 28. Gov. Michelle Lujan (D) signed the bill the same day, enacted a ban against spent fuel storage facilities to which New Mexico has not “consented to or concurred,” according to the text of the new law.

The law does not stop there; it also bans construction of a spent-fuel storage facility in New Mexico until “a permanent repository is in operation.” In the state law, “repository” means the kind of permanent storage site that only the federal Department of Energy is legally allowed to operate and only the Nuclear Regulatory Commission may license.

The proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nye County, Nev., which is politically dead and unfunded, is the only site Congress has authorized as a permanent repository.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Holtec International, Jupiter, Fla., said New Mexico’s ban “is pre-empted by federal law and will be adjudicated accordingly in the courts” and that the company’s proposed HI-STORE facility is “still viable.”

Holtec International wants to build a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Lea County, N.M. At an industry conference in early March, a company executive said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was poised to license the proposed site by the end of the month.

Holtec has said the HI-STORE site initially could store 8,700 tons of spent nuclear fuel in 500 canisters. By weight, that is roughly 9.5% of the total inventory of U.S. spent fuel from nuclear power plants.

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