Response Letter from Senators Heinrich & Udall, NM

I have been writing a series of letters to the New Mexico’s US Senators, US Reps, NM Governor and NM Legislature. I have gotten very few responses but Senator Heinrich finally sent me this detailed email. Here is his response to me and the letter that he sent to the NRC. He is requesting another delay to the NRC decision because of the Pandemic. What he fails to state is that the NRC has conducted many review sessions directly with the public since 2018, two years now. Most concerns have already been addressed, but still they want to delay until the pandemic has passed. Hopefully that will happen on Nov 4th. 2020.

October 27, 2020

Dear Mr. Kral,

Thank you for contacting me about the management of used nuclear fuel and Holtec International’s proposal to build a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in southeastern New Mexico.  I appreciate knowing your thoughts and concerns on this important issue.

My top priority with any new regulations or projects involving radioactive materials is protecting public health and safety.  As you may know, the nation currently does not have a licensed permanent repository to dispose of used nuclear fuel from commercial power plants or defense-related facilities.  I understand the need for and support establishing a permanent repository for spent nuclear fuel, and the final location of such a permanent repository must be determined through sound scientific reasoning, transparency, and engagement and consent from affected stakeholders.  I have serious concerns about proposals to create a CISF to store nuclear waste when the establishment of a permanent nuclear waste repository still has not been resolved.

 I also believe in the critical importance of public participation in the development of approaches for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.  This importance of public participation is further elevated during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which limits the public’s ability to attend in-person meetings, gather information, and provide input about important issues of concern.  For these reasons, along with Senator Tom Udall (NM), I sent a letter on August 18, 2020, to the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), expressing our  opposition to the NRC’s decision to substitute in-person public meetings about the CISF draft environmental impact statement with remote webinars.  As there are no legal deadlines requiring the NRC to complete its review process by a certain time, the NRC should not rush this process and should pause its timeline for reviewing the CISF license application until such time as the pandemic is under control enough that the NRC can safely and effectively live up to its commitment to provide in-person meetings in New Mexico.The issue of consolidated interim storage of nuclear waste in New Mexico has profound health and safety impacts for citizens of New Mexico, and New Mexicans must be given every opportunity to understand these impacts as well as comment on the NRC’s draft environmental impact statement findings.

Please know that I will continue to monitor this situation closely and will keep your thoughts in mind as I work with my colleagues in the United States Senate to establish a comprehensive, consent-based policy to safely dispose of our nation’s nuclear waste.  Again, thank you for contacting me.  I hope you will continue keeping me informed of the issues important to you.

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United States Senator

Here is the letter to the NRC:

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