Mainly the four state senators and representatives, whom we interviewed, echoed each other’s praise about Urenco’s proposed enrichment facility. “I could not be more pleased,” Senator Carroll H. Leavell told us. “It will have a major, very positive impact on the economy.” At the peak of construction, as many as 1200 workers may be employed. Later, when the facility is operational, about 300 workers will remain. All four were pleasantly surprised that town hall hearings for the proposed facility were overwhelmingly positive, and the local citizens would be delighted to have this facility in built in southeastern New Mexico. Senator Leavell said with disgust, “Most of the (anti-nuclear) protests have come from outside our area, places like San Francisco, DC and Santa Fe.”
Senators Leavell and Gay G. Kernan, the state senator from Hobbs, were invited by Urenco Ltd. to tour an enrichment technology plant in Almelo, Netherlands and left impressed with the company, its honesty and especially the management’s attitude of looking at both sides of the issues. Both state senators also observed the surrounding community failed to be negatively impacted by the enrichment facility.
Looking for deeper insights into what the future might hold, we asked all four about the possibility of a nuclear power plant in New Mexico. All four agreed it would be desirable. Additional comments by the four state politicians led us to believe there might be a second step, following Heaton’s remark about the enrichment facility being the first step.
Donald L. Whitaker, the Democratic legislator from Eunice, the closest town to the proposed enrichment facility, told us, “I would like to see a nuclear reactor in New Mexico.” Whitaker has toured a nuclear facility, and believes one would be great for the state’s economy. “They employ about one thousand and bring high-paying jobs,” he said. Representative Whitaker was not the lone voice among his fellow eastern New Mexican legislators.
“Yes, we want a nuclear reactor in New Mexico,” Representative Heaton said. Heaton is the legislature’s Vice Chairman of the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials committee and a member of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. He discussed the ABR technology and GNEP, explaining how this would solve the waste disposal problem of nuclear reactors and sway public opinion on nuclear energy.