A number of officials and residents in southeastern New Mexico support the expansion of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to handle high-level nuclear waste. The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a panel appointed by President Obama last year to review policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and develop recommendations for a long-term solution, visited Carlsbad on January 27 to tour the WIPP site. The commission was told, “We have plenty of room in our backyard.” State Sen. Vernon Asbill presented the commission with a letter from legislators calling for Congress to allow WIPP and the federal land around it to accept high-level waste such as spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants.

Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste safety project at the Albuquerque-based Southwest Research and Information Center, told the panel that it is necessary to maintain the trust of all of NM’s residents, many of whom are opposed to such an expansion, by not changing WIPP’s mission.

The Blue Ribbon Commission also held a public hearing in Albuquerque, and is expected to issue a final report by early next year.