Supporters of a plan to profit from nuclear waste storage in southern New Mexico said this week that they hope to start collecting spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants soon. However, a recent decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission doesn’t eliminate all of the hurdles that the group would have to clear before there’s a chance of that actually happening.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently made a decision on how nuclear power plants can store their radioactive waste. That’s got communities in southern New Mexico who have been trying to grow the business of nuclear storage excited about the prospect of collecting radioactive waste from power companies that don’t want to store in onsite.
But a nuclear watchdog says that’s never going to happen. Don Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center says it’s highly unlikely that Congress would fund a project like this. The spent nuclear fuel would have to be brought in by train from the East Coast and railroad companies say the current infrastructure isn’t up to the task.
"I mean we would basically have to rebuild a lot of the U.S. railroad system on the taxpayer dime in order to get the fuel from Maine and New Hampshire and places that have the nuclear power plants to New Mexico," Hancock said. "It's silly to think that the federal tax payers are going to do that."
There’s also multi-million dollar licensing fees that would be required, plus public buy-in for more nuclear waste storage in the state. In the early 2000's local officials used taxpayer money to buy hundreds of acres of land between Carlsbad and Hobbs that they hoped to develop for nuclear storage. To this day the site remains barren.