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Activists kick off NM tour to protest nuke storage plan

Activists are taking their opposition to a proposed interim storage site for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in southeast New Mexico on the road.

Representatives from various groups gathered near Downtown Albuquerque on Monday to kick off a statewide “Halt Holtec” tour featuring an inflatable rendition of the cask that would be used to transport waste to the site located between Carlsbad and Hobbs in Lea County.

Holtec International is seeking to build a facility that would store spent nuclear fuel until a permanent repository is built.

” … I look at this place as the birthplace of nuclear colonialism,” Leona Morgan, co-founder of the Nuclear Issues Study Group, said of the state. “New Mexico has been targeted for far too long as a national sacrifice zone for radioactive contamination.”

Morgan cited uranium mining and enrichment, the detonation of the world’s first nuclear bomb and southeast New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a deep geologic repository for transuranic waste.

Morgan and others argued that New Mexico should not be responsible for taking the nation’s spent nuclear fuel as the state is home to no nuclear power plants and does not benefit from energy produced by them.

Sister Marlene Perrotte, speaking on behalf of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, worried about moving forward with an interim site without plans for a permanent repository in place.

“If we do not have the whole picture, where does it go from here?” Perrotte said. “It is very possible that we inherit the temporary as the permanent.”

The tour will include stops in Santa Fe, Gallup, Roswell, Hobbs, Artesia and Carlsbad.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is reviewing Holtec’s licensing application, recently opened a 60-day public comment period that ends May 29.

“We have the opportunity now not just to say no today … but we need to keep saying no for the next about 45 days until May 29 to tell the NRC that we do not consent,” said Don Hancock, Director of the Nuclear Waste Program at Southwest Research and Information Center.