Public Health Advocates Call on Lawmakers to Reject Nuclear Waste

April 9, 2019

Public Health Advocates Call on Lawmakers to Reject Nuclear Waste

Let’s Protect, Not Exploit Texas Taxpayers and Land

AUSTIN, Tex. – Texans concerned about the environmental, health and fiscal consequences of expanding nuclear waste in Texas urged the legislature on Tuesday to reject a plan to dump more low-level nuclear waste and approve a ban on deadly high-level waste in the state.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS), which operates a radioactive waste dump in West Texas, is backing legislation that would lead to expansion of low-level nuclear waste imported into Texas and eliminate the fee the company pays to the state. Some in the West Texas oil industry are worried the nuclear waste could contaminate the Permian Basin.

The legislation, SB 1021 by Sen. Kel Seliger and HB 2269 by Rep. Brooks Landgraf, is pending in the legislature and expected to hit the House and Senate floors this week. WCS also has an application pending with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import high-level waste into Texas.
On Tuesday morning, nuclear waste opponents flanked by a large model of a waste transport cask spoke in support of expected amendments to prevent high-level waste from being imported to Texas. There is unique bi-partisan opposition in the legislature to high-level radioactive waste coming through Texas for interim storage in West Texas.

“The high-level radioactive waste that WCS wants to dump on Texas consists of deadly fuel rods from the core of nuclear reactors,” said Karen Hadden, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “Exposure to lesser amounts of radiation can lead to cancers, genetic damage and birth defects. Exposure to un-shielded spent fuel rods is lethal.

“High-level radioactive waste should only be moved once, when it can go to a permanent disposal facility deep underground to keep it isolated for a million years,” Hadden added. “That’s not in place yet. Storing it above-ground for decades in a seismically active region, in casks exposed to temperature extremes and intense storms could lead to disaster. And if it gets here the waste would likely never move.” 
The high-level waste would likely travel through most major cities along rail lines parallel to Interstates 10, 20 and 30, and along I-35 from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth through Midland-Odessa on its way to the site.

“Almost 930,000 Texans live within a half-mile of those tracks and would be most heavily affected,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “Texas can’t risk sending deadly radioactive waste through some of the state’s most vibrant and economically important cities.”
Tom “Smitty” Smith, special projects director for Public Citizen, urged the public to contact their lawmakers to support amendments to block the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Texas.

“We support amendments expected to be offered to the bills on the Senate and House floors to prohibit high-level waste from being stored in Texas,” Smith said. “The radioactive waste profiteers have amassed an army of lobbyists, so Texans need to call their legislators and ask them to say ‘No more nuclear waste’.”

The least risky approach to dealing with high-level radioactive waste is to keep it at existing reactor sites, or nearby, and use more robust canisters and casks. There’s no need to move the waste anywhere and no need to centralize it, since a permanent repository is not available. Spent nuclear fuel can be kept onsite in dry storage for 60 years after reactors cease operating.

The full-scale model at today’s news conference was of a high-level radioactive waste transport cask. Activists support amendments to bill the Landgraf and Seliger bills that would prohibit high-level radioactive waste in Texas. Waste Control Specialists’ application to store up to 40,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste storage in Texas for decades is under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.