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New Mexico State could still block Holtec’s nuclear waste dump plan, despite federal approval

State could block nuclear storage site near Carlsbad even if federally licensed, By Adrian C. Hedden / Carlsbad Current-Argus, N.M. (TNS), August 16th, 

State lawmakers maintained they will have a say in a proposed facility to store high-level nuclear waste near Carlsbad and Hobbs, despite an opinion issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas suggesting New Mexico will have a limited role in licensing the project.

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), who chairs the New Mexico Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee said Balderas’ opinion was informative but did not preclude lawmakers from preventing the facility from operating.

The committee convened in May to study the project proposed by New Jersey-based Holtec International, and held its third meeting on Wednesday at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

Opposed to the project, Steinborn said state lawmakers owe their constituents a full review of the proposal.

More: Who is Holtec? International company touts experience in nuclear storage

“I think it’s kind of a troubling deficiency in the government if the state doesn’t have to give consent to have something like this foisted upon it,” he said. “The State of New Mexico owes it to the people to look at every aspect of it.”

In Balderas’ response to multiple questions asked by Steinborn, he cited numerous past cases that Balderas said created a precedent that state governments have almost no role in federal licensing for nuclear facilities.

More: Attorney general: New Mexico has little say in Holtec proposal

He said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has the sole authority to license the facility, and the state’s authority would likely begin once it went into operation, providing some recourse if something goes wrong.

“While it is abundantly clear that the state cannot license or otherwise directly regulate interim storage facilities, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that state tort law can provide a remedy for injuries suffered as a result of nuclear plant operation,” Balderas wrote.

But Steinborn said he and the committee intended to make their voices heard well before the plant could go into operation.

He said even if the federal NRC does issue Holtec the needed license, the state could fight back by blocking utilities and infrastructure such as water and transportation access – cutting off the facility’s ability to operate.

More: Public can request federal hearings on Holtec proposal for nuclear storage

“There’s other issues that are not part of licensure,” Steinborn said. “There’s clearly a lot of concerns over infrastructure deficiencies.”

New Mexico Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R-55), who represents Carlsbad and Eddy County and sits on the committee, said Balderas’ opinion further validates that the NRC’s oversight is sufficient and the state’s role in nuclear regulation is limited.

The analysis done by the Attorney General’s office confirms that licensing of nuclear facilities is the domain of the federal government, not the states,” Brown said. “This point has been made a number of times in hearings of our Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Committee, so the AG’s analysis is not a surprise.” ……….

More: Proposed nuclear storage site in southeast New Mexico accused of ‘nuclear colonialism’

In recent months the NRC hosted numerous meetings to solicit public comment from residents across the state in developing an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project.

The public comment period closed on July 30, and the NRC hopes to bring a draft EIS for further public comment in summer 2019.

Meanwhile, the city councils for New Mexico’s two biggest cities: Albuquerque and Las Cruces voted this summer to oppose Holtec’s transportation of the waste through their communities.

Steinborn said most of the attendees he saw at the meetings were against the facility.

“It’s not an exciting proposition for most people to live near or in the state where all the country’s high-level waste is,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem to make sense to New Mexico. It’s not just about where the waste goes, it’s the end game.”………


August 17, 2018 - Posted by | politics, USA, wastes

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