Morning Briefing - June 11, 2019
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June 11, 2019

Spent Fuel Storage in New Mexico ‘Unacceptable,’ Governor Says

By ExchangeMonitor

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has formally objected to commercial plans for an interim storage facility in the state for spent fuel from U.S. nuclear power reactors.

Holtec International, of Camden, N.J., has applied for a 40-year license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a facility that ultimately could hold up to 173,000 metric tons of the radioactive waste. The site would be built in Lea County in southeastern New Mexico.

“A facility of this nature poses an unacceptable risk to New Mexicans, who look to southeastern New Mexico as a driver of economic growth in our state,” Lujan Grisham wrote in a June 7 letter to NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. “New Mexico’s agricultural industry contributes approximately $3 billion per year to the state’s economy, $300 million of which is generated in Lea and Eddy Counties, where the proposed facility is to be sited.”

The former member of Congress also noted that the Permian Basin oil and gas reservoir stretches under southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Lea and Eddy counties were ranked No. 2 and No. 6 in U.S. oil production as of 2019 by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, according to her letter.

“Establishing an interim storage facility in this region would be economic malpractice,” Lujan Grisham wrote.

The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), a coalition of local governments, is working with Holtec to develop the spent fuel storage site.

“Unfortunately, we have not really had a chance to give [Lujan Grisham] a presentation on the project, so that she understands the facts and not just hyperbole,” ELEA Vice Chair John Heaton told the Roswell Daily Record. “This was very disappointing to me. … I frankly have been very enthused about this governor, her enthusiasm and her ability to make things happen, but I think this was the wrong step on her part.”