Commentary: (Santa Fe, NM) - Senator Jeff Steinborn today requested Governor Susana Martinez again to direct her State Executive departments and agencies to respond to 57 questions sent more than three months ago regarding the safety, infrastructure needs, and emergency preparedness of a controversial proposed nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico. The Martinez administration still has provided no response to the Legislature’s list of substantive questions from April 3rd, even though the deadline for public comment to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission closes in just three weeks on July 30th. Martinez is on record in support of the proposal by the Holtec Corporation to transport and store 500 canisters containing 5,000 metric tons of spent uranium nuclear waste from reactors across the country at a location in southeast New Mexico. Steinborn chairs the state legislature’s Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee, which has safety oversight of the proposal.
“It is critically important that the residents of New Mexico get substantive information needed to make an informed decision about whether to allow this highly controversial project to go forward, but Governor Martinez refuses to provide information. The lack of response from this Administration to even the most basic questions raise the troubling prospect that they have not done any analysis on the potential negative impact of bringing the country’s highest level nuclear waste into New Mexico. This wall of silence is irresponsible and inexcusable. I call on the Governor to direct her government agencies to immediately address the questions raised before the comment period ends,” said Senator Jeff Steinborn (D- Las Cruces), Chairman of the state legislature’s Committee on Radioactive & Hazardous Materials. “Our citizens deserve no less.”
Holtec International is seeking to store 500 canisters containing 5,000 metric tons of uranium at the proposed location in Lea County, including spent uranium-based fuel from commercial nuclear reactors, and a small quantity of spent mixed-oxide fuel. If authorization is provided for the initial 500 canisters, the company intends to request licensing amendments for an additional 500 canisters in each of 19 planned subsequent expansion phases. Under that proposal, the amount of high-level radioactive waste stored would increase up to 100,000 metric tons of uranium.
In Steinborn’s April 3rd letter to Governor Martinez and five state agencies, he asked numerous questions about Holtec’s proposal, including the State’s infrastructure capacity to safely handle the transportation of heavy shipments of nuclear waste into New Mexico, emergency preparedness plans, impacts to nearby oil and gas activity and military base operations, and travel routes of the proposed shipments. The letter urged the Governor and state agencies to act promptly to provide answers so that the New Mexico Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee, legislators, and residents may become educated on the proposal, and participate meaningfully in the federal public comment period that ends in just three weeks.
The Committee will hold another in its series of public hearings on the nuclear waste proposal in Hobbs on July 19th.