A New Jersey-based company defended its application to build a facility in Southeastern New Mexico to store spent fuel from commercial reactors around the U.S., citing long-standing yet unmet obligations by the federal government to find a permanent solution for dealing with the spent fuel building up at the nation's nuclear power plants.

The project proposed by Holtec International would allow for strength-welded canisters in robust transportation overpacks containing spent fuel assemblies to be transferred from their current sites around the country to a more secure temporary home in Southeastern New Mexico, said Jay Silberg, a Pillsbury Energy partner who represents Holtec.

"We believe that this is an extremely important facility for this nation," Silberg told members of a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety Licensing Board during the second day of a public proceeding in Albuquerque.

It will be up to the Board to decide which environmental and nuclear watchdog groups have standing to intervene in the case and which objections they can pursue as federal regulators weigh whether to grant a license to Holtec. Reams of documents have already been submitted to the Commission for its thorough review of safety and environmental issues.