Amid New Mexico’s history of legacy pollution, Holtec tells lawmakers that nuclear storage proposal is safe and secure

Officials with the company that wishes to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico are working to assure lawmakers that it would be both safe and secure. 

Holtec International Project Director Ed Mayer presented the plans for the nuclear fuel storage to the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee on Thursday during its meeting in Hobbs. His presentation comes as New Mexico has been fighting the company’s proposal. During this year’s legislative session, legislators introduced a bill to ban the storage of spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico. While the bill made it through two committees, the House ultimately did not pass the proposal. 

Related: Bill to ban spent nuclear fuel storage in New Mexico passes committee

While the bill did not pass this year, spent nuclear fuel storage will likely be debated once again during next year’s session. In July, after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced plans to issue a license to Holtec to construct and operate the facility, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called upon the Legislature to “deliver a proposal to my desk that protects New Mexico from becoming the de facto home of the country’s spent nuclear fuel and it will have my full support.”

Opponents point to the risks surrounding radioactive material as well as the history of pollution in New Mexico and environmental racism.

Bill to label nuclear energy as renewable stalls

A bill aimed at classifying nuclear power as a renewable energy source in New Mexico stalled Thursday afternoon in committee on a tie vote. House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have amended the state’s Renewable Energy Act, which requires energy companies provide a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources. Brown told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee she didn’t know of any definite plans to bring nuclear power plants to the state, but that she wanted to broaden the options for a “baseload power” to replace coal or gas. Currently, Brown argued, wind and solar energy can only serve as “intermittent” power. “Unless we can get the wind to blow 24 hours a day and the sun to shine day and night, we’re still going to have those intermittent sources,” Brown said.

Nukes should count as green energy, says state rep

An Eddy County state representative wants to remove three words from the New Mexico Renewable Energy Act. That slight change would classify nuclear energy as a source of renewable energy. Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, an attorney, introduced HB 406, which is scheduled for the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. The Renewable Energy Act requires public utilities, like PNM and Xcel Energy to provide customers with a certain amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. Currently, renewable sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, certain hydropower facilities and fuel cells that don’t rely on fossil fuels.