New Mexico coalition optimistic on nuke waste storage plan

September 22, 2019 GMT

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — The head of a southeastern New Mexico coalition supporting plans to build a facility to temporary store spent nuclear fuel says supporters have around 18 months to go.

Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance Chairman John Heaton last week encouraged fellow board members to keep pushing for the proposed multimillion-dollar facility despite opposition from environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups, the Hobbs News-Sun reports.

“We’re at the final push. I think this is not the time to be weak of heart,” Heaton told the newspaper while attending the meeting from Washington, D.C. “We expect a draft (Environmental Impact Statement) to come out in March. Then, there will be hearings following that draft Environmental Impact Statement.”


New Jersey-based Holtec International is seeking a 40-year license from federal regulators to build the complex near Carlsbad.

Holtec executives say the project is needed because the federal government has yet to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of spent fuel building up at nuclear power plants.

The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance is a public entity formed through a joint powers agreement among the New Mexico cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs and the counties of Eddy and Lea. The organization owns 1,000 acres of land on which Holtec International Inc. hopes to build and operate the $2.4 billion facility, pending a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But New Mexico and industry officials also have concerns about potential effects on oil and gas development, as Holtec’s proposed site is located within the Permian Basin — one of the world’s most prolific energy production regions.

Environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups also have expressed concern about the project.

In June, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-Albuquerque, sent a letter to the U.S. Energy Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, suggesting existing railways weren’t built to withstand the weight of the special casks that would be used to transport the high-level waste from sites around the country.

The development of a proposed long-term storage site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain was halted during the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has moved to restart the licensing process despite stiff resistance in Nevada.


Information from: Hobbs News-Sun,