CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Oil companies operating in the most active oilfield in the United States are the latest opponents of plans to store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants in the Permian Basin.
Federal regulators already have granted a license for one interim storage project in West Texas, and developers are awaiting approval for a similar facility in southeastern New Mexico.
Tommy Taylor, chairman of the Permian Basin Coalition, said in a recent statement that rising gas prices and global tensions involving Russia — one of the world's largest oil producers — should be a concern.
“Gas prices are soaring and families are struggling to pay bills," Taylor said. “Yet the federal government wants to keep America’s energy producers on the sidelines by keeping oil and gas production low, and to make matters worse, they are putting America and our allies at risk by proposing to store high-level nuclear waste in America’s most productive oil field.”
The coalition has called on Congress to include language to block the storage projects in the federal omnibus spending package, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.
The coalition's members include Shell Oil Company, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and dozens of Texas cities, counties and chambers of commerce.
The Nuclear Regulator Commission recently granted a license to Waste Control Specialists for a storage facility in Andrews, Texas. They're still considering an application by Holtec International for a similar facility just to the west of the state line in New Mexico.
Both facilities would see thousands of metric tons of spent fuel shipped into Texas and New Mexico from nuclear power plants around the country for temporary storage pending development of a permanent repository.
Critics, including top elected officials from Texas and New Mexico, have voiced concerns because the federal government lacks any plans for a permanent resting place for the radioactive waste.
U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Ted Cruz of Texas recently introduced legislation aimed at banning federal funding from supporting such a site.
Dozens of environmental groups and nuclear watchdogs also have outlined their concerns about the projects in comments to the U.S. Energy Department.