Recently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was in Albuquerque weighing testimony from a range of groups seeking an official say in Holtec International’s proposal to build the HI-STORE Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for spent nuclear fuel in a remote part of Lea County.
First off, I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to the NRC for providing a fair, balanced and procedurally sound hearing. As a Lea County Commissioner representing District 4, a 33-year resident of southeastern New Mexico and a committed board member of the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), I welcomed the opportunity to share my perspectives with the NRC. But I didn’t travel to Albuquerque just to offer my testimony. I also came as a representative of the Lea County community eager to share the diversity of support for this much-needed project.
Lea County became keenly interested in the development of the Holtec site in 2013 when President Obama’s Blue-Ribbon Commission recommended the establishment of a consolidated interim storage facility to help address our country’s management of spent nuclear fuel – a very real issue.
In Lea County we recognized this and have been advocating for six-plus years to be an integral part of America’s solution on interim storage. The fact is, Southeastern New Mexico has an opportunity based on its direct positive experience with the nuclear industry, its remote and stable landscape, and support for the project with the understanding that Holtec’s CISF will bring a diversity of benefits that are entirely compatible with our nuclear past, present and future.
Not only will the CISF create approximately 100 construction jobs for 10 years, it will also establish an estimated 115 permanent jobs for our citizens. With an average salary of about $70,000, these are the good-paying, long-term jobs that we in southeastern New Mexico would welcome. And this says nothing of the significant tax dollars that accompany a $2.4 billion project like this, and the direct positive impacts on our schools, infrastructure and public services.
But unfortunately for many of us who call this part of New Mexico home, local voices in support of the CISF have at times been silenced by a small number of vocal and well-connected outsiders who have decided they know what’s best for our community. These are many of the same groups who tried to block Urenco, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and countless other projects associated with oil and gas – an industry that opponents are now, ironically, claiming needs protection from a CISF. In many cases they are full-time activists who are recycling the same fear-based arguments to emotionally strong-arm decision-makers and block a project that would be good for this part of New Mexico. My support for this project is based on facts, hard science and a positive experience with WIPP, Urenco and the energy industry as a whole.
I am proud of Lea County’s past and excited about its diversified energy future. I welcome Holtec, the CISF, and other high-tech industry partners who wish to work with our modern, balanced and capable community.