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Taxpayers Group: Nuclear Resurgence Not Exactly Good News for NM

June 22, 2010

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - With the spill in the Gulf highlighting the dangers of American reliance on fossil fuels, some people see a resurgence on the horizon for nuclear power, which could have major implications for New Mexico's economy and environment. The Obama administration has asked Congress to expand a loan guarantee program for construction of new nuclear plants, but others say there's a reason no new plants have been built in 30 years.

Autumn Hanna, senior program director with the group Taxpayers for Common Sense, says the cost of building and maintaining plants and dealing with the waste would require federal subsidies and loan guarantees that could leave taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.

"Continuing to load subsidies to failed technologies of the past is not the way to go for taxpayers."

Hanna says the Gulf oil spill should be a wake-up call for nuclear power supporters, not only because of the potential danger from accidents, but from long-term issues, like dealing with spent fuel.

"We have huge liabilities in how to address the waste produced at nuclear reactors now, and we've had problems trying to come up with repositories and other solutions, and all of that's going to cost taxpayers."

Nuclear power supporters say it's a clean process that doesn't contribute to climate change and could create jobs for New Mexico in research, enrichment and uranium mining. But many legal battles are still being fought over the economic, environmental and public health damage after the state's last uranium boom went bust in the 1970s. One of the worst radioactive spills in history happened more than 30 years ago in the Rio Puerco of Northwest New Mexico's uranium country.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM