Why NM Legislators Should Vote for SB 95
Summary: Sponsored by Senator Jeff Steinborn, Senate Bill 95 amends the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Act to expand the composition and duties of the Radioactive Waste Consultation Task Force. The bill adds the state secretaries of homeland security and emergency management to the task force, which currently consists of the secretaries of energy, minerals and natural resources; health; environment; public safety; and transportation, as well as the state fire marshal, who is a nonvoting member.
SB 95 expands the task force’s scope to include review of federal license applications for privately operated radioactive material disposal facilities in New Mexico and evaluation of the public safety, environmental, health, infrastructure, and transportation impacts and requirements of the proposed facilities. The bill also amends the definition of “high-level waste” to include “highly radioactive materials produced as a byproduct of the reactions that occur inside nuclear reactors, including spent nuclear fuel” and clarifies that the definition of “radioactive materials” includes high-level waste.
This bill contains an emergency clause and would become effective immediately upon signature by the governor.
Why This Bill Is Good for New Mexico
State Department of Energy and Natural Resources offered this in the Fiscal Impact Report: “Currently, there are proposed radioactive and spent nuclear fuel projects in both the private sector and federal government that impact New Mexico. The federal government is seeking to dispose of surplus plutonium at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP); increasing transuranic waste production through the pit plutonium production program adding to the existing legacy inventory; and changing the definition of high level radioactive waste, which will increase the overall inventory of radioactive material that can be designated as transuranic for disposal at the WIPP.
A private entity [Holtec] has submitted a license to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) requesting to operate an interim storage facility for commercial spent nuclear fuel in Lea County. The license is currently in the review process at the NRC. If approved, the material would come to New Mexico for up to 40 years with the option of license renewal in 20-year increments. Without a federal disposal site for high level radioactive waste or spent nuclear fuel, the commercial material at the interim storage facility may be stored indefinitely in New Mexico.”
New Mexico already houses the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s only deep geologic long-lived radioactive waste repository. Located 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, New Mexico, WIPP permanently isolates defense-generated transuranic (TRU) waste 2,150 feet underground in an ancient salt formation, compared to just 23 feet deep as proposed by Holtec. And Holtec plans to store up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel in the facility, in a remote area near Carlsbad and Hobbs, an area already riddled with underground fracking operations.