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A Nuclear Power Plant May Be Next for New Mexico

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Federal lawmakers patted themselves on the back, last Friday, in a joint bi-partisan news release issued by three New Mexico politicians: U.S. Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman, and U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce. Their celebratory remarks were meant to remind voters why the politicians were in Washington – to bring their state new jobs for at least some of New Mexico’s voters. While the chorus of praise revolved around creating new jobs and bringing millions of dollars into the state’s economy, is there more behind this story, which has not yet been told?
For Senator Domenici, this was another major victory as the longest serving U.S. Senator in New Mexico’s history. The Republican Senator heads the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Domenici made his views on nuclear energy quite clear in his book “A Brighter Tomorrow: Fulfilling the Promise of Nuclear Energy” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004). He began pursuing Louisiana Energy Services to move to New Mexico in February 2003, after it became apparent Hartsville, Tennessee didn’t want uranium being enriched in their backyard.
And again, it was Domenici, whose last minute negotiations with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, led to the adoption of the Part 810 Waiver. The waiver allowed Louisiana Energy Services (LES) to contact foreign-owned Urenco Ltd about transferring high technology data (the gas centrifuge technology) to LES so the uranium enrichment technology could be utilized at the new facility. U.S. laws ordinarily prohibit such nuclear technology transfers, but Domenici’s intervention brought the project to the NRC approval stage. LES had been on the drawing boards since 1989, having derived its name from the state of Louisiana. The LES partnership was initially formed with the intent of building its centrifuge enrichment plant in Homer, Louisiana.
Senator Domenici’s impact upon the nuclear resurgence in the United States is evident to the entire industry and most politicians. He announced last year, “In 1997, I predicted the resurgence of nuclear energy in the United States. For the last eight years, I have worked to help make that renaissance a reality.” Is there, perhaps, one more achievement Senator Domenici would like to add on behalf of the nuclear industry, before giving up his Senate seat? In his book, “A Brighter Tomorrow,” Domenici bemoans and condemns nuclear fuel reprocessing. With the advent of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), Domenici may bring a nuclear power plant to New Mexico before he retires.

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