Texas At Risk of Becoming the Nation's Radioactive Waste Dumping Ground; Rules Being Rushed Through During Holiday Season

December 17, 2010

A proposed radioactive waste import and export rule threatens to make Texas the nation's radioactive waste dumping ground, allowing waste from 36 states to be disposed of at the Waste Control Specialists site in Andrews County in West Texas. The facility is located about five miles east of Eunice, on the New Mexico-Texas border.

In 1985, Congress passed amendments to the Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Act that gave states the responsibility for disposing of their low-level radioactive waste. It encouraged states to enter into compacts www.nrc.gov/waste/llw-disposal/licensing/compacts.html that would allow them to dispose of waste at common disposal facilities. Texas proposed a compact with Vermont and Maine.

SEED Coalition Director Karen Hadden said, "More radioactive waste would mean increased financial, health and environmental risks. Analysis by nuclear expert Dr. Arjun Makhijani found that if the license was expanded and non-Compact states were allowed in, there could be nineteen times more radioactive waste than originally planned for."

In 1993, an effort was made by Governor Ann Richards to limit the number of states that would be allowed to dispose of low-level radioactive waste at the site that was then planned for Hudspeth County, Texas.

In 2007, the staff of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended denying the radioactive waste license for the Andrews County site, saying that "groundwater is likely to intrude into the proposed disposal units and contact the waste from either or both of two water tables near the proposed facility." Nevertheless, the Commission approved the site, resulting in the resignation of three staff members.

The so-called low-level waste could include nuclear reactor vessels, "poison curtains" that absorb reactor core radioactivity, and sludges and resins. Diane D'Arrigo, of the non-governmental organization, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said, "Six commercial radioactive waste dumps have leaked and cleanup will cost billions of dollars."

Tom "Smitty" Smith, of Public Citizen, said, "Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, owner of Waste Control Specialists, would reap the profits, while citizens bear all the risks." He advised, "Federal agencies and legislators should examine the increased risks of rail and highway accidents if radioactive waste [is] shipped from around the country as well as whether emergency responders are equipped to deal with accidents involving radioactive spills."

Comments on the proposed rule are due on Sunday, December 26th. Comments may be sent to < mailto:rule.comment@tllrwdcc.org > . For more information and a sample comment letter, please visit www.NukeFreeTexas.org .

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