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Government’s Decision to Consider Dangerous West Texas Radioactive Waste Dump Is Opportunity to Block It

Sept. 27, 2018

Government’s Decision to Consider Dangerous West Texas Radioactive Waste Dump Is Opportunity to Block It

Public Involvement Has Stopped Poorly Designed Waste Dumps in the Past

AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) decision to restart its review of a high-risk, high-level radioactive waste dump in West Texas creates an opportunity to halt a dangerous mistake, Public Citizen, the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and Beyond Nuclear said today.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) is seeking to expand its existing low-level waste site to take high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants across the country. If the site is approved, 40,000 tons of spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors around the country would be transported to Texas and stored for 40 years or longer, risking the creation of an unsafe de facto permanent disposal facility. The waste likely would be shipped throughout the country on its way to the storage site.

The NRC put a hold on the application when WCS changed ownership. The clock is ticking for public input on the Texas proposal, which is important because public opposition has stopped the establishment of radioactive waste dumps in the past.

“This plan is all risk and no reward – not only for Texas but for the whole country, and it should be halted immediately. People across the country should be concerned, because putting this waste on the nation’s railways would invite disaster,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, special projects director for Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The amount of radioactive waste on a single train car would contain as much plutonium as the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Radioactive waste moving through highly populated cities across the country could be targeted for sabotage by terrorists or could cause catastrophe in the event of an accident.”

The NRC will conduct safety and environmental reviews before it decides whether to approve the radioactive waste dump application, but the agency will not hold any public hearings, despite holding five hearings on a similar proposal this spring in New Mexico and two dozen for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Texans are demanding public meetings; a public comment period is not enough to address these grave concerns.

A planned protest, called the Protect Texas from Radioactive Waste Tour, is visiting rail crossings across Texas where the waste may be shipped with a mock full-scale size radioactive waste transport cask. Public Citizen and the SEED Coalition are hosting town hall meetings this week in give Texas cities – Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Midland and Andrews – to help citizens prepare comments and organize.

“Our rural farming community was targeted to take high-level radioactive waste, and in 2011, we stopped the nuclear industry from bringing transports to our area. We had protests on the streets and on the railroads with 50,000 people,” said Kerstin Rudek, a resident of Gorleben, Germany, who is participating in the tour. “We have serious concerns about risks to our health, our water and our food. There’s been massive opposition, even from conservative people who never took action before.”

“Rather than store this radioactive waste on an exposed lot in West Texas, it should remain at the power plant where it was generated or nearby the plant until a scientifically viable isolation system for permanent disposal becomes available,” said Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition.

Supposedly “interim” or temporary high-level nuclear dumps are not even legal in the U.S. until there is a permanent site – and we don’t have a permanent one. The government should not be threatening us with these dumps and the dangerous unnecessary transport,” said Diane D’Arrigo, radioactive waste project director with NIRS.

Recent experience has belied NRC claims that modeling shows no transportation risk. For example, in June 2016, two trains in Texas collided head-on at 65 mph, creating a huge fireball and resulting in two deaths.

“We do not consent to being put at radioactive risk,” said Elizabeth Padilla, a resident of Andrews, Texas. “We need the help of people all across the country to say no to radioactive waste.”

The public can comment on the license application until Oct. 19. Comments on WCS/ ISP’s Consolidated Interim Storage Facility should include Docket ID NRC-2016-0231 and be emailed to WCS_CISF_EIS@nrc.gov. Comment letters also can be sent from www.NoNuclearWaste.org. The public has until Oct. 29 to submit requests to intervene in the licensing proceeding for the proposed facility.