Could New Mexico follow Texas and ban some nuclear waste storage?

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A bill passed by the Texas Legislature could ban the storage of high-level nuclear waste in the stateand could prove a path to similar efforts in neighboring New Mexico.

House Bill 7 was passed by the Texas House of Representatives on an 119-3 vote Sept. 2 and unanimously by the Texas Senate.

The bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott for a signature and which would create a new state law.

If enacted, the bill would expressly prohibit the state from issuing permits to construct or operate a facility to store nuclear waste within the state, with the exception of existing nuclear facilities like power plants that store the waste on-site.

NRC:Court lacks authority in New Mexico lawsuit against nuclear waste site

“With the exception of storage at the site of currently or formerly operating nuclear power reactors and currently or formerly operating nuclear research and test reactors operated by a university, a person, including the compact waste disposal facility license holder, may not dispose of or store high-level radioactive waste in this state,” read the bill.

The bill came as the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was engaged in a licensing process to expand a facility owned by Interim Storage Partners in Andrews, Texas – on the state’s border with southeast New Mexico within the oil-rich Permian Basin region – to store about 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods.  

About 70 miles east into New Mexico, Holtec International planned its facility along the border of Eddy and Lea counties to hold more than 100,000 metric tons of nuclear waste.

More:Feds see no problems with nuclear waste storage in West Texas, New Mexico despite concerns

A rendering of what Holtec International's interim nuclear waste repository would look like if completed.

Both facilities were intended, per the companies that hope to build and operate them, to hold the waste temporarily as a permanent repository is developed.

A permanent storage location for the waste does not exist in the U.S. after a project at Yucca Mountain, Nevada was blocked by lawmakers in that state and defunded during the administration of former-President Barack Obama.

More:New Mexico lawmakers warned of dangers of nuclear waste facility proposed near Carlsbad

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