SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Federal energy regulators have announced that they are spending $26 million to find communities willing to accept a temporary federal site to store spent nuclear fuel while a permanent repository is completed.

Thirteen groups made up of industry, academic, nonprofit, government and community representatives will each get $2 million to explore the most equitable approach to picking an interim site to store highly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, according to a recent news release from the U.S. Energy Department. The approach will include a dialogue with residents and local governments, the department said.

This study is being conducted with the aim of creating a federal storage site independent of the two private sites proposed for southern New Mexico and Texas, which are embroiled in heated political and legal battles.

The lack of a permanent disposal site has created a dilemma for the federal government as it seeks a temporary hub to move the spent fuel piling up at 70 nuclear power plants in three dozen states.

Those who oppose temporary waste sites in their areas contend federal law — and now a newly passed New Mexico law — require a permanent repository to exist or at least be in the works before an interim one can be built.

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