On Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched a thinly veiled threat about the Holtec International facility that was recently approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Commission OK’d the facility, which will safely store casks of spent nuclear fuel in an interim facility in Eddy and Lea counties.
Holtec International, which has a gleaming reputation for nuclear power and storage, began the approval process for constructing the facility in 2017, gathering widespread support from the region.
Metropolitan-area Democrats, including Lujan Grisham, have been bemoaning the potential of the safe facility to exist in New Mexico, erroneously claiming it would create a “dumping ground” of nuclear “waste,” spurring the passage of S.B. 53, aiming to stop the facility from being built. There was bipartisan opposition to try and preempt the company from coming to New Mexico.
Sens. Moe Maestas (D-Bernalillo) and Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Bernalillo), as well as Reps. Ambrose Castellano (D-Ribera), Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), Meredith Dixon (D-Bernalillo), Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup), and Joseph Sanchez (D-Alcalde) joined all Republicans in opposition to the unconstitutional bill.
These safe fuel rods, housed in secure casks, would be transported by rail to the facility on train shipments specifically for storage. The project would account for over 350 new jobs.
The casks are immune to hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, and even the impact of a plane crash. There would be no adverse effect on wildlife nor on groundwater, no radiological consequences in the event of a fire, and an inconspicuous design.
Despite the facts, Lujan Grisham is issuing threats to Holtec International and federal regulators after the project was approved.
The governor told POLITICO, “I will use every tool in my toolbox” to stymie the project.
“I think other states need to step up. I think other solutions need to step up,” Lujan Grisham said during POLITICO’s first-ever Energy Summit. “And I’ll take it as a compliment. This is a highly scientific state … that does a lot of innovation with two of [the Energy Department’s] national labs right here. But don’t expect us to always do the heavy lifting here.”
The outlet reported, “On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said she supported advanced energy technologies and acknowledged the U.S. should be ‘a little bit more open-minded’ about what technologies fuel the clean energy transition. But she criticized the federal government and Holtec’s process for weighing the risks of nuclear waste storage within her state.”
Immediately following the NRC decision, Lujan Grisham and Attorney General Raúl Torrez fumed about the decision in a joint statement.
“It also undermines the NRC’s alleged commitment to meaningful engagement with stakeholders, as it appears our concerns were wholly ignored and went unaddressed by Holtec and the NRC,” they wrote, despite the lengthy process Holtec took to receive approvals and work with the state and local stakeholders.