Sen. Jeff Steinborn Presses Governor, State Agencies On Nuclear Waste Storage Facility Preparedness

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn


New Mexico State Democrats News:

…Presents Letters Asking State Agencies for Prompt Response to Allow Legislators and Residents to Become Informed and Participate in Public Comment Period

LAS CRUCES – Sen. Jeff Steinborn, the Chair of New Mexico’s Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Interim Committee, sent letters Tuesday to Gov. Susana Martinez, Attorney General Hector Balderas, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the state Superintendent of Insurance requesting answers to concerns about the State’s preparedness for safely handling a proposed “Consolidated Interim Storage” facility of high-level nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel in Lea County.   

Operators of the planned facility seek to transport and store spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants and other high level nuclear waste from across the U.S.  The application for the facility was recently approved for consideration by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, triggering a 60-day public comment period March 29 to May 30.  Steinborn said the potential hazards of shipping and storing the country’s high level nuclear waste in New Mexico mandates a very thorough review.

“Given the speed at which this nuclear storage proposal is now moving forward, it is critical the State perform a full, top-to-bottom review of our preparedness to handle it.  There are serious questions about the State’s ability to safely accommodate the shipping and storage of high level nuclear waste, and whether this interim storage facility is the wisest policy for New Mexico and the country.  We need answers,” Steinborn said.

Holtec International is seeking to store 500 canisters containing 5,000 metric tons of uranium at the proposed location, 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 letter to Governor Martinez and five state agencies, he asks numerous questions about the proposal, including the State’s infrastructure capacity to safely accommodate 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 urges 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 public comment period that has already begun.

“There are significant public policy and public safety issues associated with the transport and storage of radioactive waste in Lea County. Key information about our state’s preparedness and exposure needs to be vigorously evaluated and discussed. The health, safety and financial well-being of people and businesses in New Mexico needs to be given the highest priority in evaluating Holtec’s proposal. Additionally, it is essential to transparently discuss these policy ramifications now to allow residents the opportunity to participate in the public comment period,” Steinborn added.

Sen. Steinborn’s other letters include:

  • A letter to the state Attorney General asking about the legality of the federal government sending high-level nuclear waste to New Mexico for temporary storage, as well as the state’s recourse if the federal government fails to develop a permanent repository for the materials.
  • A letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking for the New Mexico Legislature to be given adequate time to evaluate and comment on Holtec’s application, as well as a request of the Commission staff to appear before the Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee to answer questions about the application process.
  • A letter to the state Superintendent of Insurance requesting information about the potential impact to homeowners’ insurance policies should they be affected by exposure to the high level waste.

Link to Public Comment Page:


Ltr to Governor Martinez – Re Holtec International

Ltr to Attorney General – Re Holtec International

Ltr to NRC – Re Holtec International

Ltr to Superintendent of Insurance – Re Holtec International

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