New Mexico sues US nuclear commission over waste storage plan


New Mexico on Monday announced a lawsuit against the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), alleging insufficient oversight of a planned nuclear fuel storage site in the state.

The facility, proposed by New Jersey-based company Holtec International, would house tons of used fuel accrued from nuclear power plants nationwide. In its complaint, the state argued the federal commission overstepped the bounds of its power and “rubber-stamped” Holtec’s proposal. The state also accused the agency of blocking challenges from institutions that objected to the proposal.

“I am taking legal action because I want to mitigate dangers to our environment and to other energy sectors,” Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) said in a statement. “It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open ended uncertainty.”

“The NRC’s mandate does not include policy setting or altering the public debate and emphatically cheerleading nuclear industry projects. Yet it is doing both to the detriment of New Mexico,” the complaint states.

The complaint also identifies what it says are numerous potential safety hazards if the facility is built.

“There are at least 18 abandoned and plugged wells located on the property that could contribute to the formation of sink holes if the casing on these wells has been compromised. There is one plugged saltwater disposal well located north-cast of the property boundary that could contribute to sinkhole formation and potential subsidence,” the complaint reads. “Additionally, ground subsidence related to potash mine workings, as has been documented in the region, must be evaluated in greater detail as a potential risk to the stability of the [consolidated interim storage facility] CISF facility.”

New Mexico is currently the site of the only federal underground site housing nuclear waste in Carlsbad. The Holtec proposal is for a four-decade license to build a separate facility about 35 miles away, which would house spent fuel until a permanent solution could be identified.

About 83,000 metric tons of spent fuel are currently housed in temporary facilities across nearly 40 states, according to The Associated Press.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has also vocally opposed the project, although it has drawn support from local officials in the southeastern part of the state, according to the AP.

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