Las Cruces council votes down nuclear storage facility

July 26, 2018

By Maddy Hayden, Staff Writer
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Las Cruces has joined the ranks of municipalities around the state in opposing a proposed interim storage facility for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in southeast New Mexico – or at least opposing the transportation of the radioactive material through respective communities.

The Las Cruces City Council voted narrowly this week to approve a resolution opposing the Holtec International site.

"We have a lot of problems already that come from all the nuclear testing in New Mexico … . I just feel that we get dumped on," Councilor Yvonne Flores said. "I personally feel that it would be immoral for me to vote in support of this project."

Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have each passed legislation opposing the fuel’s transportation through the city and county on its way to the site.

Council members asked questions and debated the project for over two hours Monday night before ultimately voting 4-3 to pass a resolution "to oppose the transport of high level nuclear wastes and the construction and operation of nuclear waste storage facilities in New Mexico."

At the heart of the concerns, as at most public meetings and hearings regarding the project, was the logistics and safety of transportation of the highly radioactive fuel.

"There’s really no upside to Las Cruces. The downsides could be huge," said Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima. "I’m supportive of your interests as long as your interests don’t interfere with mine, which is the safety and welfare of Las Cruces residents."

Others on the council felt that more information was needed before a decision could be made.

"My reasoning was that I was hoping for more information of a scientific nature coming to us," said Councilor Jack Eakman, who opposed the resolution, in an interview Tuesday. "In my mind, we should not be afraid of atomic energy in any way. I was looking at the feasibility of the project and I wasn’t going to rule it out just because it contains the word ‘nuclear.’ "

The council will submit the resolution to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is accepting public comment on Holtec’s license application until July 30.

The state House and Senate each passed resolutions in support of the project in 2016; Gov. Susana Martinez wrote a letter of support in 2015.

The city governments of Carlsbad and Hobbs, and Lea and Eddy counties, the communities in closest proximity to the project, have also legislated support of the site.

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