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NM coalition optimistic on nuke waste storage plan

John Heaton

HOBBS – The head of a southeastern New Mexico coalition supporting plans to build a facility to temporary store spent nuclear fuel says supporters have around 18 months to go.

Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance Chairman John Heaton last week encouraged fellow board members to keep pushing for the proposed multimillion-dollar facility despite opposition from environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups, the Hobbs News-Sun reports.

“We’re at the final push. I think this is not the time to be weak of heart,” Heaton told the newspaper while attending the meeting from Washington, D.C. “We expect a draft (Environmental Impact Statement) to come out in March. Then, there will be hearings following that draft Environmental Impact Statement.”

Holtec International is seeking a 40-year license to build the complex near Carlsbad. Holtec executives say the project is needed as a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of spent fuel.

The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance is a public entity formed through a joint powers agreement among Carlsbad and Hobbs and Eddy and Lea counties. The organization owns 1,000 acres of land on which Holtec hopes to build the $2.4 billion facility, pending a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But New Mexico and industry officials have concerns about potential effects on oil and gas development, and environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups also have expressed concern about the project.

The Trump administration is attempting to restart a halted proposed storage site at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance Chairman John Heaton