DALLAS -- New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is pitching the Land of Enchantment as a dump site for the nation's high-level radioactive waste.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Martinez proposed a 1,000-acre parcel in southeastern New Mexico as a place for storing spent radioactive fuel rods from power plants across the nation.
"Time and time again, the citizens of southeastern New Mexico have impressed me with their hard work ethic and willingness to tackle national problems that many others consider to be unsolvable," Martinez wrote.
The site halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs is backed by the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a consortium of city and county governments. Officials say the sparsely populated area needs jobs. The New Mexico site is in competition with a nearby site in Texas that is already storing radioactive waste.
Then Texas Gov. Rick Perry warned in April 2014 that Texas was in danger of losing the waste site to New Mexico and said bringing the site to Texas would protect Texas citizens.
Perry and the legislative leaders were instrumental in passing legislation that created the first low-level radioactive waste dump in Texas on behalf of the late Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons. Residents of Andrews County voted in 2010 to issue $75 million of taxable general obligation bonds when Simmons was unable to arrange private financing for the waste dump.
New Mexico is already home to the federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation's only underground nuclear waste storage facility. WIPP was forced to shut down in February 2014 after a radiation leak and fire at the underground storage facility.
The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $73.25 million toward infrastructure projects in New Mexico as a way of settling $54 million in fines for the mishap, which contaminated 21 workers.
Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company created by Simmons, has been making plans to develop a spent-fuel storage site in west Texas. The company has gotten support from AREVA, a federal contractor owned by the French government that is also part of the consortium that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
AREVA previously backed the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance. But the two entities parted company.