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University Art Museum hosts Aug. 17 nuclear waste discussion


The New Mexico State University Art Museum (UAM) will host “Nuclear New Mexico, What’s Next?” a discussion with New Mexico State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and author Alicia Inez Guzman about the history and future of nuclear development in New Mexico.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17, in Devasthali Hall at UAM, 1308 E. University Ave., at the intersection of University and Solano Drive, NMSU said in a news release.

The discussion is the second of two panel discussions UAM has hosted in conjunction with artist Cara Despain’s, “Specter New Mexico” and Branigan Cultural Center’s juried show “Trinity: Legacies of Nuclear Testing.”

All events are free and open to the public.

Steinborn is the vice-chair of New Mexico’s Legislative Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee. Guzman has written histories of land use in New Mexico while focused on nuclear issues in her current role at Searchlight, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative journalism, NMSU said.

Despain, whose UAM exhibit focuses on the impact of the nuclear industry in the Southwest, spoke earlier this month at the first “Nuclear Legacies” panel.

“I think the injustices on the ground in the entire southwest surrounding nuclearism are relevant to the entire globe,” Despain said. “Certainly, the dawn of the atomic age changed every living thing on Earth. I think the stories of the folks closest to these test and uranium sites need to be told, elevated and not forgotten.”

The two panels accompanying Despain’s exhibit add insight and engage the public in the discussion of nuclear issues impacting New Mexico.

“We started talking to Cara about some of the people that she speaks to, the research that she's conducted, and we utilize that research and the ideas that she has formed to inform who we would bring in for programming,” UAM Director Marisa Sage said, “From filmmakers to politicians who are part of the conversations of nuclear development across the Southwest, the past, the present and the future, from artists and authors to journalists writing about the impact of nuclear colonialism and nuclear development and militarization across the Southwest.”

In the New Mexico legislature, Steinborn sponsored legislation to ban the storage of high-level nuclear waste in New Mexico and beef up a task force with expanded scope and duties to investigate commercial waste storage facilities. The new law took effect June 15.

“He is a big part of the conversation of what’s next when it comes to nuclearism in New Mexico,” Sage said. “Jeff’s persistence, introducing the ban on high-level nuclear waste during the past two legislative sessions, resulted in this new law being passed.”

“From pulling uranium out of the earth to using it commercially and putting it back into the ground for long-term storage, it’s all about economic development and who gets paid, but at what cost?” Sage asked. “Sen Jeff Steinborn really understands those issues and he advocates for environmental remediation of the impact on all of us.”

For more information, call 575-646-2545 and email artmuseum@nmsu.edu. Visit uam.nmsu.edu.