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Safety, Transport Concerns Linger over Proposed Lea County Nuclear Storage Site

Holtec International

New Jersey-based nuclear equipment company Holtec International is applying for an initial 40-year license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build what it calls a "consolidated interim storage facility" in Lea County.

The proposed $2.4 billion "HI-STORE" facility would sit on about 1,000 acres of land owned by the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance roughly halfway between Hobbs and Carlsbad. The site would hold up to 10,000 canisters storing up to 100,000 metric tons of spent uranium fuel from more than 70 nuclear sites across the country. Holtec President and CEO Krishna Singh has called the cannisters “unconditionally safe storage units.”

Democratic State Sen. Jeff Steinborn chairs the state Legislature's Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee which oversees the proposal. Steinborn said he’s received no response from Gov. Susana Martinez's Office and other state agencies to his questions about the project’s safety, storage and transport.

“They will not tell us exactly which rail corridors this material would be coming in, through which communities it would be coming by including Las Cruces. But I think when you look at where the nuclear waste is stored around the country, I think it’s reasonable to assume this waste will be coming through all sites of New Mexico,” Steinborn said.

Steinborn said a July 19 public meeting in Hobbs confirmed the need to further analyze and evaluate the proposal, which the Las Cruces City Council recently passed a resolution opposing in a 4-3 vote. The scoping period for public comment ends July 30. Comments may be emailed to Holtec-CISFEIS@nrc.gov or submitted at the websites here and here.

Listen to the full interview with Democratic State Sen. Jeff Steinborn and Michael Hernandez.

Michael Hernandez was a multimedia reporter for KRWG Public Media from late 2017 through early 2020. He continues to appear on KRWG-TV from time to time on our popular "EnviroMinute" segments, which feature conservation and citizen science issues in the region.