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License Application for Dangerous West Texas High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump Is Now Open for Public Input

Jan. 30, 2017

License Application for Dangerous West Texas High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump Is Now Open for Public Input

Public Can Speak Out Against Plan to Dump the Most Dangerous of All Radioactive Waste in West Texas; Public Involvement Has Stopped Poorly Designed Waste Dumps in the Past

AUSTIN, Texas – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) acceptance Thursday of a license application for a high-risk, high-level radioactive waste dump in West Texas creates an opportunity to halt a dangerous mistake, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition said today.

Now the clock is ticking for public input, and public opposition has stopped the siting of radioactive waste dumps in the past.

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 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.

“This plan is all risk and no reward, not only for the states of Texas and New Mexico, 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. 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,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

The NRC will conduct safety and environmental reviews before it decides whether to approve the radioactive waste dump application. The NRC will hold two public hearings – one in Andrews, Texas, and another in Hobbs, N.M. – and public comments will be accepted through March 13. The public also has 60 days to submit requests for a hearing and petition to intervene in the licensing proceeding for the proposed facility. 

Public Citizen and the SEED Coalition will host several town hall meetings prior to the NRC meetings to help citizens prepare and organize. Information about them and the NRC hearings will be posted at http://nonuclearwasteaqui.org/.

“The WCS location is close to the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation’s largest aquifer, which lies beneath eight states. What if our water becomes contaminated?” said Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition. “Rather than store this radioactive waste on an exposed parking lot in West Texas, it should remain at the power plant where it was generated or nearby until a scientifically viable isolation system for permanent disposal can be designed and built.”

“In June 2016, two trains in Texas collided head-on at 65 miles per hour, creating a huge fireball and causing at least two deaths. What if one of these trains had been hauling radioactive waste? Real world accidents sometimes exceed modeling. The risky transport of radioactive waste across the country and the plan to dump it on people in West Texas without the resources to fight back should be halted immediately. We do not consent to being put at radioactive risk,” added Hadden.

The two NRC public hearings will be:

7-10 p.m. MST, Feb. 13, at the Lea County Event Center, 5101 N. Lovington Highway, Hobbs, N.M.

7-10 p.m. CST, Feb. 15, at the James Roberts Center, 855 TX-176, Andrews, Texas.

The NRC is planning to hold additional meetings at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., during the week following the local meetings.