CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A proposed multibillion-dollar complex in southern New Mexico that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the US is facing another legal challenge as opponents have filed an appeal in federal court.

They are taking aim at the federal government’s decision earlier this year to dismiss numerous contentions that watchdogs had raised about the project.

Beyond Nuclear’s appeal, filed in early June, reiterated concerns that the facility planned by Holtec International would end up becoming a permanent dumping ground for spent nuclear fuel since there’s no deep geological repository available to hold the waste permanently, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

The nonprofit group worries that a permanent facility would not be available until 2048. It also claims that the licensing process itself is questionable because it considered the possibility that the US Energy Department would take ownership of the waste — a move illegal under federal law unless a permanent repository is available.

“The Commission lacks a legal or logical basis for its rationale that it may issue a license with an illegal provision, in the hopes that Holtec or the Department of Energy won’t complete the illegal activity it authorized,” said Mindy Goldstein, an attorney for Beyond Nuclear. “The buck must stop with the NRC.”

New Jersey-based Holtec is seeking a 40-year license to build what it has described as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad. The first phase calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent fuel.

Holtec has said the US currently has more than 80,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel in storage at dozens of sites around the country and the inventory is growing at a rate of about 2,000 metric tons a year.

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