High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump Could Come to Texas

Image taken from Harvard University's blog post: Looking for a Trash Can: Nuclear waste management in the United States

We tried to warn the Texas legislature about the dangers of storing low-level nuclear waste in West Texas years ago. Predictably, the majority of them shrugged us off- and now there is a much more serious predicament unfolding. The Texas legislature chose to privatize the management of so-called “low-level” radioactive waste in Texas, and then the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) licensed Waste Control Specialists (WCS) back in 2011 to take care of this waste at a site in Andrews County just east of the New Mexico border. We told them it was the camel’s nose under the tent- in other words, it’s a seemingly small issue that would lead to a much bigger problem over time. Sierra Club and other opponents said WCS would keep demanding more and more waste, and they have. 

At first, WCS just wanted to import some low-level waste from other states. The legislature and TCEQ allowed it. Then it was depleted uranium. The legislature and TCEQ allowed it. 

Accident Waste from the Waste Isolation Project (WIP) from New Mexico? TCEQ and the Department of Energy (DOE)  allowed it. 

Irradiated wastewater from South Carolina? The DOE, NRC and TCEQ allowed it. 

Now WCS wants to import high-level radioactive waste to store in Texas. That’s right. WCS, operating under a joint venture with Orano USA, a subsidiary of the global company Orano, a French conglomerate, has formed a new outfit called Interim Storage Partners designed to bring 40,000 tons of high-level nuclear power plant waste and bring it to West Texas over highways and railways. And the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is taking comments on this idiotic and irresponsible proposal through written comments and four upcoming virtual meetings. 

Under the proposal, NRC considers adding a high-level “storage” site to the existing “low-level” radioactive waste site in west Texas. This new license would allow the site to import the most dangerous types of waste from nuclear reactors across America, which would travel through major cities like San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Midland and Odessa, as well as highways and rail lines in New Mexico, Oklahoma and along the New Mexico-Texas border, which is home to predominantly communities of color.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking public comments on its draft Environmental Impact Statement, which downplays the many risks of transporting highly radiated waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants over highways and rail-lines to west Texas. 

Dumping nuclear waste on the Southwest region is also a massive environmental injustice. Millions of people who live near ports and railroad tracks across the country would also be put at risk from leaks, accidents, or sabotage from irradiated fuels rods. Exposure to radiation leads to cancers, birth defects, and death. Help protect your neighbors and communities nationwide by making comments and participating in upcoming hearings!

The NRC staff will be holding four virtual meetings in early October 2020. These meetings will be held on October 1, 6, 8, and 15, 2020, during which the NRC staff will present the results of its environmental analysis and then accept comments on the draft EIS. If you’re interested in attending these meetings, check the NRC’s Public Meeting Schedule web page for additional information, agendas for the meetings, and access information for the webinar and telephone line. The NRC had planned to conduct public meetings in person near the project site; however, the staff is not able to hold the in person meetings due to the current COVID-19 public health emergency.

The draft EIS is available, along with an overview of the report in English and Spanish, from the NRC’s project website for its review of the ISP license application:.

Prevent radioactive contamination by telling the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to halt the high-level radioactive waste storage licensing applications immediately!

Take action through Sierra Club’s online action alert, or you can submit comments directly to NRC.

The NRC is accepting public comments on the draft EIS through November 3, 2020.  Comments can be submitted several ways:

  • Mail to the Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001;

  • E-mail at WCS_CISF_EIS@nrc.gov; and

  • Posting online at the federal government’s rulemaking website, using Docket ID NRC-2016-0231

Submit your comments today!