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US regulators delay resolution to license New Mexico nuclear facility

U.S. regulators say they want extra time to wrap up a remaining security report and decide on whether or not to license a multibillion-dollar complicated meant to briefly retailer tons of spent gas from business nuclear energy vegetation across the nation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Fee issued a brand new schedule Monday, citing unexpected staffing constraints. The company was initially anticipated to problem a choice by the top of March. It is going to now be the top of Could.

The announcement comes simply days after New Mexico accredited laws geared toward stopping the undertaking. It’s anticipated that supporters of the storage facility will take the combat to court docket, however New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday requested the NRC to droop its consideration of the license software.


New Jersey-based Holtec Worldwide already has spent an estimated $80 million in its pursuit of a 40-year license to construct and function the complicated in southeastern New Mexico. Firm officers stated Tuesday that the delay in licensing would have solely a minimal affect on the unique timeline.

“With a undertaking of this complexity, we perceive the necessity for the regulating and licensing authority to have on a regular basis and sources essential to problem a licensing resolution,” Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien stated in an e-mail.

Holtec, elected officers from southeastern New Mexico and different supporters have been pushing arduous to supply what they name a brief resolution to the nation’s drawback of spent nuclear gas, which has been piling up at business reactors for years.

Because the federal authorities has didn’t construct a everlasting repository, it reimburses utilities to accommodate the gas in both steel-lined concrete swimming pools of water or in metal and concrete containers often called casks at websites in almost three dozen states. That price is anticipated to stretch into the tens of billions of {dollars} over the following decade.

The laws signed by Lujan Grisham final week requires that the state present consent for bringing in such radioactive materials. Consent from the Democratic governor could be unlikely, as she has argued that with out a everlasting repository, New Mexico stands to be the nation’s de facto dumping floor.

She reiterated her opposition within the letter to NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson.

“Thanks for respecting the state of New Mexico’s legal guidelines and the voices of our residents, tribes and pueblos who overwhelming(ly) supported this laws,” she wrote.

Comparable battles have been waged in Nevada, Utah and Texas over the a long time because the U.S. has struggled to discover a residence for spent gas and different radioactive waste. The proposed Yucca Mountain undertaking in Nevada was mothballed and a brief storage web site deliberate on a Native American reservation in Utah was sidelined regardless of being licensed by the NRC in 2006.

That undertaking would have been situated on land belonging to the Cranium Valley Band of Goshute. Utah’s governor on the time — Republican Mike Leavitt — was amongst these combating the hassle. He and others have been profitable in getting Congress to amend a protection spending invoice, primarily landlocking the location by creating the Cedar Mountain Wilderness and blocking a rail spur that might have delivered casks.

However it was solely six weeks later that the NRC issued a license for the undertaking.


Don Hancock with the nuclear watchdog group Southwest Analysis and Info Middle pointed to the Utah case.

“If congressional motion doesn’t have an effect on NRC resolution making, there’s no purpose to assume that New Mexico motion has an impact,” he stated in an e-mail Tuesday.

Elected leaders in Texas additionally have been unsuccessful in preserving an identical undertaking from being licensed by the NRC in 2021. Built-in Storage Companions LLC’s preliminary plans name for storing as much as 5,512 tons of spent gas and about 254 tons of low-level radioactive waste for 40 years. Future phases might enhance that capability to 44,092 tons of gas.

Holtec officers are upset within the New Mexico laws and argue that their undertaking is protected, could be an financial boon for the area and wouldn’t have an effect on ongoing operations within the Permian Basin, which is among the world’s most efficient oil and gasoline performs.

“Passing a invoice that’s pre-empted by federal legislation and might be adjudicated accordingly within the courts is a counterproductive motion that inhibits the state’s progress within the space of unpolluted power,” O’Brien stated, including that native assist has solidified the corporate’s perception that the undertaking remains to be viable.

President Joe Biden has acquired dueling letters from supporters of the undertaking and from Lujan Grisham and others in opposition. The administration has acknowledged the position nuclear energy must play in reaching its carbon emission targets and earlier this yr put up $26 million in grants for communities keen on finding out potential interim storage websites.

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