FILE – Brendan Shaughnessy, left, with the Nuclear Issues Study Group, protests with other activists ahead of a meeting of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in Albuquerque, N.M., on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019. Lawmakers have endorsed a measure that calls for banning the storage of spent nuclear fuel in N.M., unless the state provides its consent first. Democratic lawmakers have been raising concerns that opening the door to waste from commercial nuclear power plants around the U.S. would result in New Mexico becoming the nation’s dumping ground. The legislation passed the House on Friday, March 17, 2023, and governor intends to sign it. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

By Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s governor on Friday signed legislation aimed at keeping spent nuclear fuel produced by commercial U.S. nuclear power plants from being shipped to the state, just hours after the measure cleared its final legislative hurdle.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wasted no time adding her signature after the New Mexico House voted 35-28 in favor of the bill following a lengthy debate. Five Democrats joined Republicans in opposition, arguing that the measure would challenge longstanding federal authority over nuclear safety matters and lead to new court challenges.

The bill from Democratic state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, of Las Cruces, will impact a proposed multibillion-dollar facility in southeastern New Mexico that would have the capacity to temporarily store up to 8,680 metric tons of used uranium fuel. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent fuel over six decades.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission may announce a decision soon on whether to grant a license for the project spearheaded by Holtec International, which has spent an estimated $80 million over the past eight years on the approval process.

Lujan Grisham and members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have voiced strong opposition to building the facility along the state’s border with Texas. Both states sued the federal government over the issue, and top elected officials in Texas were unsuccessful in their efforts to stop a similar facility in neighboring Andrews County from being licensed.

If a license is granted for the complex in New Mexico, it would still need permits from the state Environment Department. That’s where critics say the state could lean on the legislation and halt the project.

Rep. Gail Chasey, an Albuquerque Democrat, argued that there has been no incentive for states with nuclear power plants to find permanent solutions for dealing with spent fuel. As long as New Mexico is seen as an option, those states won’t be concerned with the long-term effects, she said.

“The trouble is this is a forever decision. We don’t get to decide, oh, let’s not do this anymore and take it away,” Chasey said. “So think about the fact that if it were such a profitable and good thing, then the states that produced it would have it near their facilities.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of radioactive waste a year, with most of it remaining on-site because there’s nowhere else to put it.

Since the federal government has failed to build a permanent repository, it reimburses utilities to house the fuel. That cost is expected to stretch into the tens of billions of dollars over the next decade, according to a review by independent government auditors.

The fuel is sitting at temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states, either enclosed in steel-lined concrete pools of water or in steel and concrete containers known as casks.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has talked about revisiting recommendations made a decade ago by a blue-ribbon commission on America’s nuclear future. In November, her agency issued a request seeking input on a consent-based siting process to identify locations to store commercial spent nuclear fuel.

Despite opposition from environmentalists, the Biden administration has pointed to nuclear power as essential to achieving its goals to create a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035.

Some lawmakers from southeastern New Mexico said local elected officials and residents would welcome the Holtec project and that visits to some of the current storage sites near power plants have shown the casks are safe.

They also touted the safety of transporting the material by rail to New Mexico, saying armed guards would be aboard the trains and that testing has shown the casks would not release radiation in the event of a derailment.

Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown, whose district includes the proposed Holtec site, said the region already is home to the federal government’s only underground repository for Cold War-era waste generated during nuclear research and bomb-making. It also hosts a uranium enrichment plant.

The legislation sends a message to companies to “invest all you want and then we’re going to pull the rug out from under you,” Brown said. “And I don’t think that’s fair.”

Still, other lawmakers have voiced concerns about the project since it would be located within the Permian Basin, one of the most productive oil fields in the world. New Mexico gets a significant portion of its revenue from drilling.

 

News from © The Canadian Press, 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

  • 0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
    0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
  • 0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
    0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
    0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Pipeline Online provides the in-depth coverage on energy issues in this province that no other media comes close to. However, with recent threats from Facebook to block news links, it’s important to follow Pipeline Online in other manners. The easiest is to check each morning at PipelineOnline.ca, with the top story posted at 7 a.m. Monday to Friday, and additional coverage throughout the day and weekend. But you can also follow on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can follow editor Brian Zinchuk online at LinkedIn as well (you’ll see more stories that way). Finally, you can subscribe to a weekly newsletter

 

In an effort to literally keep the lights on, the Saskatchewan First Act passed by provincial government