Poll Shows Opposition to Nuclear Waste Facility in Southeast NM

Bulletin Report

A recent poll shows that a majority of New Mexico voters do not want a private company to ship spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants to New Mexico, according to a Jan. 10 press release from the Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC), Southwest Alliance for a Safe Future, Demand Nuclear Abolition and State Senator Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana.

The poll asked voters across the state whether they support or oppose Holtec International, a private energy company based in Jupiter, Fla., which is importing up to 173,600 tons of high-level nuclear waste to southeastern New Mexico for temporary storage store 40 years. In the poll, 60 percent of the 1,015 voters polled opposed the project, 30 percent supported it and 10 percent were undecided, the press release said.

The poll was conducted December 7-14, 2022 by Change Research, a San Francisco-based polling firm, with an error rate of 3.5 percent. The survey question was paid for by SRIC, an Albuquerque-based organization founded in 1971 to educate the public about “energy development and resource exploitation” in New Mexico and the Southwest, according to the SRIC website. It was part of a larger survey commissioned by the Center for Civic Policy and the Center for Civic Action, both Albuquerque-based nonprofit organizations.

“This poll confirms that New Mexico residents are overwhelmingly opposed to shipping and storing 10,000 canisters of high-level radioactive waste in our state,” said Steinborn, chair of the New Mexico Legislature’s interim committee on radioactive and hazardous materials. “From the beginning, this has been a dangerous plan being advanced in New Mexico, with real risks to all of our communities, and no end in sight. It is about time this project was canceled and replaced by the federal government, which committed to a true consent-based on-site process for the permanent storage of this waste,” Steinborn said.

According to the press release, the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to grant Holtec a license to build and operate an interim storage facility as early as February.

“The federal government stated in its Environmental Impact Statement that there would be up to 13 railroad accidents for the 10,000 shipments of trash to New Mexico, with the shipments arriving through all parts of the state and ending up on the final rail through Clovis. Portales, Roswell and Carlsbad,” the press release said.

“Although advocates of the Holtec project such as the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) have claimed residents of southeastern New Mexico would support the shipment of high-level radioactive waste to the area, polling results showed that a majority — 56 percent — of voters residents of New Mexico and the southeastern portion of the state are also opposed to the project,” the release said.

The poll also showed that opposition was bipartisan, with majorities of Republicans, Independents and Democrats all opposed to the proposed facility, including voters across the state.

“Holtec International and its partner ELEA have initiated licensing of a Self Contained Intermediate Storage Facility (CISF) in southeastern New Mexico on lands owned by ELEA,” Holtec said on its website. “The facility, dubbed HI-STORE CISF, will represent a significant step toward fulfilling the federal government’s long-standing commitment to the disposal of spent nuclear fuel by providing a safe, secure, temporary, retrievable and centralized facility for the storage of spent nuclear fuel and.” high level radioactive waste until such time as a permanent solution is available.”

The precise survey question was: “A private company plans to import all of the country’s high-value products

Nuclear waste, up to 173,600 tons, to New Mexico and store it here for 40 years or

longer. Experts expect up to 13 accidents in the 10,000 rail transports.

Proponents say the storage casks are safe and jobs will be created. That’s what the opponents say

accidents occur exposing people and the environment to hazardous radioactive waste. Do

Do you support or oppose this project coming to New Mexico?”

New Mexico has previously considered legislation by Senator Jeff Steinborn to ban the state

from issuing construction and waste water permits to the interim storage of highly radioactive substances

Waste in New Mexico until a federal repository is operational. A similar law was signed by Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott will stand in office in September 2021. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan

Grisham has indicated that if such a bill reached her desk, she would sign it.