U.S. regulators deliver massive blow to NM Holtec project’s opponents

On Tuesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted Holtec International a license to construct a facility in Eddy and Lea counties to safely and temporarily store spent nuclear fuel, according to the Associated Press.

During the 2023 Legislative Session, Democrats rammed through the extreme S.B. 53 despite 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. 

The project previously got a positive environmental impact statement from the NRC.

The spent fuel would be stored at the Holtec site “until the Federal Government provides a repository for permanent storage or other permanent disposition as required by law,” according to Holtec. 

New Mexico is ideal for such a facility due to its “typography, arid climate, [the] sparse population at the site’s location, and proximity to transportation infrastructure,” Holtec wrote.

Even former Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, wrote that the state has no jurisdiction to ban nuclear fuel storage in New Mexico.

He wrote in 2018, referencing case law, “Taken together, both Bullcreek and Nielson clearly establish two principles: first, that the NRC has the statutory authority to license and regulate consolidated interim nuclear waste storage facilities, and secondly, that the comprehensiveness of that federal regulatory scheme preempts virtually any state involvement.” 

Balderas further wrote in the opinion, “While there are a large number of factors that are considered by the NRC in evaluating a license application, state approval is not among them.” 

Even the Joe Biden administration has recognized the need for nuclear fuel, writing that it “made a commitment to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy industry by 2035. Nuclear energy is a part of that solution.” 

Despite all sides coming together in support of nuclear energy being a viable solution to our nation’s energy needs, Democrats continue to harp on decades-old fear tactics to keep investment, namely the multi-billion-dollar Holtec project, from investing in New Mexico’s future. However, the court challenge to the unconstitutional law is imminent.


5 thoughts on “U.S. regulators deliver massive blow to NM Holtec project’s opponents”

  1. NM screws up everything it does. Why would this be any different.
    Makes one wonder who is going to benefit from this the most!

    1. Your rhetorical cynicism aside, the article you cite defines exactly why a central facility designed specifically for long term storage of highly radioactive materials is better for safe management of those materials. The highly controlled, robust storage facility such as that planned by Holtec stores existing containers in dry, salt-free environment and is designed to encapsulate the storage casks within a concrete matrix. This design and storage environment contrasts with many existing, dispersed, open-air, and variably controlled storage cask sites along coastal regions which do expose those casks to salt air; a condition which has been demonstrated to be one of the most detrimental to cask longevity.

  2. So New Mexcio is a dumping ground again. What’s new about that?
    We’ll be at the top of the “Most Radio Active State” list.

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