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New Mexico is suing the United States over its proposed nuclear waste storage program

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ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – New Mexico on Monday sued the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission over fears that the federal agency had not done enough to build a multibillion-dollar facility to store spent nuclear fuel in the state, saying the project would jeopardize residents. environment և economy.

New Jersey-based Holtec International wants to build a complex in southeastern New Mexico that can collect tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants across the country until the federal government finds a permanent solution. Government officials worry that New Mexico will become a permanent landfill for radioactive materials.

A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that the commission exceeded its authority over Holtec’s plans by granting a license to the company could pose an “imminent material danger” to New Mexico. The state cited the potential for groundwater pollution, oil and gas exploitation in one of the country’s most productive basins, and increased tensions over emergency response resources.

The state also expressed concern about a similar project planned across the state of West Texas.

New Mexico accused the commission of collaborating with Holtec in “rubber stamping” the offer. The State argues that almost all interested parties who lodged a complaint were denied the opportunity to stand up and participate meaningfully.

“The NRC’s mandate does not include policy-making or modification of public debates, the emphasis on nuclear industry projects. However, this is being done to the detriment of New Mexico, ”the complaint reads.

The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment from New Mexico. However, during the licensing process, he claims that he followed the procedure, held public hearings, and carried out an environmental inspection.

Holtec has been seeking a 40-year license to build what it describes as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad, which is already the only underground storage facility of the Federal Government during the Cold War, which has been the result of decades of nuclear research. և Making a bomb.

Holtec executives have said the storage plan is necessary because the United States has not yet found a permanent solution to the tonnage of fuel spent on commercial nuclear power plants.

According to the US Department of Energy, nuclear reactors generate more than 2,000 meters of radioactive waste per year across the country, most of which remain in place because there is nowhere else to dispose of it.

In all, about 83,000 tons of spent fuel are stored in temporary storage stations in some 30 states. The fuel is either enclosed in water-reinforced concrete reservoirs or in steel-concrete containers known as barrels.

The first phase of the proposed New Mexico project requires the storage of up to 8,680 meters of uranium, which was to be packaged in 500 containers. Future expansion could pave the way for 10,000 cans of nuclear fuel consumed over six decades.

The New Mexico complaint alleges legal uncertainty for the federal government. In both applications for the license, the Department of Electricity calls for future ownership of spent fuel, and contracts with facility developers to maintain it until permanent storage is available. However, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act does not allow the Department of Energy to take over until permanent storage is in place.

“It is largely unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open uncertainty,” said New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

According to Holtec, the location in New Mexico, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Carlsbad, is geologically stable.

Despite opposition from Governor Michel Luzhan Grisham in the state, elected leaders in southeastern New Mexico backed the bill, saying it would create jobs in the region, generate income, and provide a temporary option for dealing with spent fuel.

The United States first challenged federal regulators’ initial offer to license Holtec in comments to the commission last fall. Among New Mexico’s other concerns, government officials said regulators had failed to address environmental justice issues and had fallen short of other requirements set by federal environmental law.

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