Friday, May 8, CIBOLA COUNTY – “I don’t think we should be talking about this at all while the state and the federal Department of Energy are still addressing the serious accident and radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, said U.S. Senator Tom Udall last week in a press release. Senators Martin Heinrich and Udall issued a joint statement questioning the concept that New Mexico may become an interim storage site for high-level nuclear waste.

“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 ­ whether the site is in southeastern New Mexico or anywhere else in the country — because that nuclear waste could be orphaned there indefinitely, said Udall who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. When WIPP opened, New Mexicans understood that we were making our contribution to helping solve the [nuclear waste] storage problem.”

“Southeastern New Mexico should be commended for its leadership in the nuclear industry, including being home to WIPP, the nations only deep geologic repository for transuranic nuclear weapons waste and an integral part of the environmental clean-up of Cold War programs at Department of Energy defense sites,” added Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “But I cannot support establishing an interim storage facility until we are sure there will be a path forward to permanent disposal. There must be an open and transparent process that allows for input on what’s best for our entire state.”

Several area residents comments at the May 1 New Mexico Mining and Minerals Division public hearing echoed that same concern. One Navajo tribal member urged officials to indefinitely delay approval of any uranium mining activities until a permanent storage facility has been developed for non-military nuclear waste.

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