SANTA FE — Legislation aimed at banning the storage of nuclear waste at a disposal facility in New Mexico — at least for now — won state Senate approval 21-13 on Monday.
It will head next to the state House.
The proposal, Senate Bill 53, would prohibit public agencies from granting permits for a nuclear-waste disposal project unless the state consents and other conditions are met.
The measure comes as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers issuing a license to Holtec International for an interim nuclear waste storage facility on private land between Carlsbad and Hobbs.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, a Las Cruces Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said the bill would allow New Mexico to stand up for itself and initiate a more collaborative process with the federal government.
“Our state did not ask for this,” he said. “In fact, our state doesn’t really have a say in the matter.”
Opponents of the bill said it’s preempted by federal law, that local officials in southeastern New Mexico support the Holtec project and that it’s at odds with New Mexico’s attempts to diversify its economy.
“This is an energy source that is zero carbon,” Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said. “It’s so much safer than anything else we have out there.”
The bill passed largely along party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. But at least two Democrats joined Republicans in dissent.
Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said it made sense for New Mexico to have some influence over the project, given the nation’s problems finding a permanent storage space for nuclear waste.
“This really is a vote about future generations in New Mexico,” he said.
The Holtec site is set to be temporary — a 40-year lease as part of a $230 million project.
The United States doesn’t have a permanent storage site for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.