Proposal to Store Nuclear Waste in New Mexico Advances

The proposal comes from Holtec International, who is seeking an initial 40-year license for an underground storage facility that could accept and temporarily store used nuclear fuel accruing at reactors across the United States.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Thursday that a new proposal to store nuclear waste underground in southern New Mexico is can now be examined for detailed safety, security, and environmental concerns.


The proposal comes from Holtec International, who is seeking an initial 40-year license for an underground storage facility that could accept and temporarily store used nuclear fuel accruing at reactors across the United States. Federal nuclear regulators said the proposal is ready to begin the technical review process that will eventually involve expert testimony and public comment.


Southern New Mexico already houses the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository that handles radioactive material from decades of bomb-making nuclear research. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project facility was forced closed for three years after a 2014 radiation release, with extended repairs that are estimated to cost more than half a billion dollars.


Safety advocates are concerned about the transportation risks involved in moving massive amounts of used nuclear fuel to New Mexico for the proposed facility.


Federal nuclear regulators have outlined for Holtec a series of reviews that could be completed by July 2020 or be delayed and suspended, depending on responses from the company and safety examinations.

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