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NM should embrace nuclear role

New Mexico has taken a very shortsighted position on its nuclear industry, especially with the opposition to expanding stored nuclear waste at WIPP and stored nuclear fuel at the proposed HI-STORE CISF.

New Mexico has been storing transuranic nuclear waste at WIPP for the last 21 years and nuclear uranium fuel at URENCO since 2012. Both operations are located in the middle of the Permian Basin and pose little to no risk based on experience.

Several letters sent to the DOE/NRC by politicians in both New Mexico and Texas have outlined the perceived risk and danger to the safety and health concerns of the general population and the environment. They have even called out New Mexico as a “nuclear dump” when the reality is nuclear storage is safer than all other stored and non-stored materials because of strict regulations and safe storage encasement.

Nuclear in New Mexico is safe because there are no deaths from acute radiation exposure at any nuclear storage facility in the United States. That is not the situation for the oil and gas industry.

New Mexico’s nuclear industry is not just about nuclear waste storage or nuclear fuel storage. What most people do not know or understand is that New Mexico is also about nuclear reactor research and development at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Many reactor variations have been designed, developed, prototyped, and tested over the past 50 years, only one has transitioned out of the Lab — Space Nuclear Power Corporation (also known as SpaceNukes).

This New Mexico corporation is going to market a micro fission reactor to power spacecraft and space colonies.

Elon Musk is making great strides in spaceship development with his SpaceX Crew Dragon rockets with flights to and from the International Space Station. He recently announced a new Starship spacecraft to be used for flights to and from the moon and space colonies on Mars using nuclear space reactors. I am not sure if SpaceX will be using the SpaceNukes reactors or not. But someone will.

New Mexico has the greatest opportunity to expand its aerospace industry. Along with SpaceNukes, Spaceport America is finally ready to start sub-orbital space fights for the rich and famous. This project took 10 years to develop. Hopefully, the gross receipt taxes on the ticket to ride will offset the sunk cost up until now.

New Mexico is on the cusp of many great economic opportunities, but our politicians have to make sound decisions based on worldwide experiences, such as stored nuclear fuel. Opposition to HI-STORE CISF, influenced by anti-nuclear advocacy groups, is funded by competitive sources and headed in the wrong direction, just like the New Mexico Energy Transition Act.

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