New Mexico Approves Land Purchase for Proposed High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Facility


play3The New Mexico State Board of Finance approved the sale of 1,000 acres by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) to Holtec International for a possible consolidated storage facility for much of the nation’s commercial spent high-level radioactive waste fuel generated in nuclear power plants.  The Board of Finance approval to sell the site to Holtec by July 31, 2017 is contingent upon an appraisal and other matters.  See Agenda Item 14, p. 2 at

The site is located in Lea County, midway between Carlsbad and Hobbs, on Highway 62.  The site is now owned by the Alliance, a limited liability corporation composed of the Lea County Commission, Hobbs City Council, Eddy County Commission, and Carlsbad City Council.  In 2006, the Alliance proposed the site for nuclear fuel reprocessing, which never occurred because it is not economically viable and creates large amounts of waste.

In a September 13, 2016 release, Holtec stated, “The Holtec-ELEA Team has tremendous State and local support and consent.”  The company has delayed the submission of its license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission until sometime in 2017.  The details of its plans will not be known until the application is made public.

Nevertheless, bringing waste to the privately owned site cannot happen without Congress substantially changing the 35-year-old Nuclear Waste Policy Act and providing billions of dollars to pay for the site’s operations and transportation of thousands of railcar loads of waste from across the nation.

In May 2015, when the Alliance and Holtec announced that they planned to build the storage facility, New Mexico U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich opposed the proposal.  Senator Udall stated, “Several aspects of this proposal concern me.  No matter where it’s built, I will not support an interim disposal site without a plan for permanent disposal [of the waste].”

Senator Heinrich agreed and said, “But we can’t put the cart before the horse.” photo-2-1000x563

There is strong local and statewide opposition to the plan. Noel Marquez, of Artesia, expressed his concern, “As a citizen of Eddy County who does Not Consent to bringing the waste to our region, I am extremely disappointed to see my community expressing No Consent rendered invisible and our beautiful lands proposed as a permanent Wasteland for the Nuclear Industry.”

A resident of Hobbs, Mena Ramos, said, “I’m not well informed on that but it is scary to know that that is coming to our town.”

Don Hancock, of Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, stated, “The large majority of New Mexicans, like people in other states, do not support consolidated storage. The nuclear utilities must provide safe storage for their waste at their sites.”


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  • Laurel K. Defalco

    I am a resident of Oceanside, CA. I live near the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, where much of the radioactive waste at the New Mexico site would be coming from.
    There is a big push by members of the Community Engagement Panel to get the public to write to our representatives and support the New Mexico waste storage arrangement. I have not attended the most recent meeting, but that was the focus of the one I did attend previously.
    I do not support the transfer of radioactive spent fuel from San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station or any other nuclear power plant to New Mexico.Congressman Darrel Issa(R)California has been promoting this plan as a way to save the nuclear industry by enabling the nuclear power plants to operate longer and I will not support any arrangement with that as the ultimate goal.
    Furthermore, it is unfair to force another state to become the dumping grounds for a conglomerate of short sighted, greedy utilityexecutives who are not even smart enough to purchase the thicker, safer storage containers made by Are a, or to at least direct the Holtec people to copy their safer design for thick cask storage. The thin metal casks they plan to use are an unproven, untested design, which NRC members have even testified are not safe for storing high burn up fuel. In fact, our dry cask storage canisters are already unsafe to transport because they contain damaged fuel rods. Southern California Edison made the waste and made a lot of money doing so. If they are not even willing to purchase the safer storage containers, I have little confidence in their ability to carry out this operation successfully and without creating a public health hazard by accidentally dropping a dry storage canister releasing an 1850 msv dose to the surrounding population within one mile. Such a dose would cause blood irregularities or leukemia in a large percentage of the population and death in 6-8 weeks in 5 -6 pool percent of the population, according to the NRC’s own reports, yet they consider such a scenario to be “acceptable.” I do not find it acceptable and I do not think many people would.
    The focus of dry cask storage of San Onofre’s decommissioning should be building the safest, most state of the art on site spent fuel management facility that their , not our, money can buy. They made it, now let them care for it for the thousands of years that will be necessary. Guarding and managing the spent fuel would create plenty of good paying jobs, which should be offered first to the out of work former San Onofre workforce, at the standard union pay scale. That is the only fair solution to this dilemma.

    • Laurel. As much as I want that waste off that beautiful beach, I have to agree with you. Edison made it and should have to deal with it. Or the DOE can hollow out a mountain on CP. But whatever is done needs a citizens oversite board that is able to dictate how its stored and that is because the nuclear industry, it’s scientists and the NRC have proven again and again that the safety of the citizens of the area, mean absolutely nothing. They are reckless and over paid and uneducated. Because if they are not any of those three than they are just utter criminals b

  • Vernon Brechin

    Holtec International is a cask vendor and is deeply involved in many other nuclear and non-nuclear operations around the world.

    Holtec International – Divisions


    Holtec’s Proposed Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in Southeastern New Mexico

    HI-STORE CIS Leadership includes Carlsbad Mayor’s Task Force John A. Heaton, Vice Chairman. Hobbs, NM, Mayor Sam Cobb, is listed as Secretary. Several Eddy County Commissioners are also shown as leaders of this commercial effort.

  • Laurie and Laurel,

    Thank you so much for your articulate posts and for not joining those who are willing to dump on the Texas/ New Mexico border region, where largely Hispanic communities lack the resources to fight off plans to target their region. Much appreciation!

    Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition