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Law to ban high-level nuclear waste storage facility effective June

New Mexico can’t just be the convenient sacrifice zone for the country’s contamination,”

Proponents call the ban an ‘important first step’ to limit impacts from radioactive waste

Source New Mexico, BY: DANIELLE PROKOP – APRIL 10, 2023

A state ban on high-level nuclear waste will go into effect in June, blocking a private company’s ability to build a contentious storage facility in southern New Mexico.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 53 into law March 17. The bill did not have the votes for an emergency enaction, so it goes into effect June 15.

The new law has two provisions.

The first expands the scope and duties for a task force to consult state agencies on nuclear disposal and investigate its impacts on New Mexico.

The second bans storage of high-level nuclear waste. The ban is in effect until two conditions are met – the state agrees to open a facility to handle waste, and the federal government has adopted a permanent underground storage site for nuclear waste.

“We do need a permanent solution. But New Mexico can’t just be the convenient sacrifice zone for the country’s contamination,” said Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Las Cruces) in an interview.

High level radioactive waste is extremely toxic. Some types will remain highly radioactive for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years. Short doses of exposure can be fatal. If radioactive waste leaches into the groundwater or soils, it can move through the food chain.

The state ban would include regulations on Holtec International’s plans for an underground facility for spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power reactors and other high-level radioactive waste from across the country. 

At its peak, Holtec projected the facility could hold 176,600 metric tons of waste aboveground on more than 1,000 acres between Hobbs and Carlsbad.

“This bill is another major obstacle that will prevent this site from ever receiving any nuclear waste,” said Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Safety program director and administrator at the nonprofit Southwest Research and Information Center.

The region already hosts the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, an underground site that stores clothes, tools, rags and other items contaminated with radioactive waste. The new law does not impact WIPP……………………………………

Kayleigh Warren, a member of Santa Clara Pueblo and a health and justice coordinator at the nonprofit Tewa Women United, called the four-page bill “an important first step.”

“It’s a way our state can start to communicate to the rest of our county that we’ve done our part,” Warren said. “We’re not interested in being a sacrifice zone for the country’s waste anymore.

Tewa Women United protests the impacts of toxins from Los Alamos National Laboratory on water and land in the Española valley and surrounding Pueblos. Looking forward, a key issue is how tribal governments will participate on the task force.

Native Americans are disproportionately vulnerable from uranium mining on the Navajo Nation or exposed at higher rates to radiation in water supplies.

“I want to see how our voices become part of these conversations moving forward,” Warren said.


April 11, 2023 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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