KUNM

Judges Consider Challenges To New Nuclear Waste Site In N.M.

Jan 23, 2019

A private company called Holtec wants to store nuclear waste from the country’s power plants in New Mexico. A panel of three judges from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board started hearing from opponents to the plan Wednesday, Jan. 23, and will consider which of their challenges are legal.

Holtec wants to create a second nuclear dump in the state, and not too far from the first one, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, out near Carlsbad. Local environmental groups say Holtec’s plan is too risky—both transporting the spent nuclear fuel rods and putting them in the ground out near the Eddy and Lea county line. A Texas oil company is also objecting, saying that site could interfere with drilling in the area.

Lawyer Nancy Simmons spoke to the panel on behalf of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies about whether Holtec’s plan would disproportionately affect people of color.

"It turns out, so very often, that these type of sites end up in low-income, minority communities in the south and on the border, and very much in New Mexico," she said.

Some city and county officials in the region are in support of the plan because of economic opportunities.

Holtec is applying to store waste from nuclear power plants for 40 years in New Mexico before moving it to a permanent location. A permanent dump site for that kind of waste doesn’t exist yet in the U.S.