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Residents to Tell Federal Government: ‘We Don’t Consent to High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump in Our Region’

June 23, 2016

Residents to Tell Federal Government: ‘We Don’t Consent to High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump in Our Region’


At Arizona Public Meeting, Residents From Texas, New Mexico and Nevada Raise Concerns About Accidents and Sabotage

TEMPE, Ariz. – Residents who live near a proposed high-level radioactive waste dump in West Texas will hold a press conference at 4:30 p.m. today outside a public meeting to send a message to federal officials: “We don’t consent to having the nation’s waste in our communities.”

The meeting, which runs from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., will be held at the Marriott Phoenix Tempe at the Buttes, 2000 W. Westcourt Way, Tempe.

Not only would the dangerous waste pose safety concerns for those living nearby, but because it would be shipped by rail to Texas from reactors throughout the country, it would pose a hazard to people nationwide in the event of an accident or terrorist attack, the residents will say.

The site in Andrews County, Texas, owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), accepts low-level radioactive waste. WCS wants to expand the storage site to accept high-level radioactive waste. The site is located on the border of Texas and New Mexico, and is near the Ogallala Aquifer, raising concerns about the potential contamination of drinking water.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been hosting meetings around the country seeking input on agency plans to find a place to put the nation’s highly radioactive waste. Today’s meeting in Tempe is one of the series, and is billed as a meeting about “consent-based siting” of waste storage. But the agency has failed to hold meetings in Texas or New Mexico, the two states most affected by WCS’ plan.

Because Andrews County Commissioners agreed to WCS’ plan last year, it is often assumed that people there have consented to receiving the waste, but residents of the 15,000-person community never got to vote.

The WCS plan would involve more than 10,000 shipments of radioactive waste generated across much of the United States over 20 or more years. A 2014 Texas state report said that “spent nuclear fuel is more vulnerable to sabotage or accidents during transport than in storage because there are fewer security guards and engineered barriers, and that the consequences could be higher since the waste could travel through large cities.”

And a DOE report found that a radiation release could render 42 square miles uninhabitable and that it could cost more than $9.5 billion to raze and rebuild a single square mile of a major city’s downtown area. 

In addition, energy equipment company Holtec International is proposing to build a long-term, high-level nuclear waste storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in southeastern New Mexico on 1,000 acres in western Lea County and Eddy County, which also is on the border and about two hours from Andrews, Texas. 

Below are quotes from concerned groups and some of those who will participate in the press conference.

“I do not consent to being home to high-level nuclear waste for an indefinite time. WCS is applying for a 40-year license, but there is no permanent repository for this waste, so it almost certainly will remain here for all time. The risks associated with transportation and cask integrity leave me with no confidence in their plans to move this trash across the country to my hometown. I refuse to become a radioactive waste sewer for this nation.”

– Rose Gardner, resident of Eunice, N.M.

“The government’s plan to bring high-level radioactive waste to our region is a major threat to our health, air, water and lands. The political authorities and mainstream newspapers ignore the voices of the people of the southern New Mexico area, which has a large Hispanic and Native American population. We have been excluded from the public dialogue, which is much needed for the community to be able to step forward and express their opinions as free citizens. We do not consent to being targeted by the DOE and its corporate contractors for what will become permanent storage dumps of high-level radioactive waste that will affect many generations. We have been rendered invisible by these meetings far from our lands and ignored by the desperate radioactive waste political agenda.”

– Noel Marquez, resident of Artesia, N.M.

“The Andrews County Commission gave the thumbs up to this project without any citizen input. We call on the commissioners to hold a well-publicized hearing on this issue. The people of Andrews feel betrayed because we weren’t given a chance to voice our opinion. The great majority of people I’ve talked with agree with me that we do not consent to having this radioactive waste in our community.”

– Humberto Acosta, a concerned citizen in Andrews, Texas.

“Dumping this dangerous waste on communities that are largely Hispanic and lack the resources to fight back, people who never had a say in the nuclear reactors to begin with or benefitted from any electricity from them, would be an extreme example of environmental injustice. There’s no need to risk health and safety across the country just to store radioactive waste in a different place, especially since no permanent repository has been developed. The least risky path is keeping the radioactive waste where it is.”

– Karen Hadden, executive director, Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition

“This plan is all risk, not only for the state of Texas, but for the whole country, and it should be halted immediately. Putting this waste on our railways invites disaster. Radioactive waste moving through highly populated cities across the country could be targeted for sabotage by terrorists. Just think of some of the oil train disasters we’ve seen recently. Imagine if deadly nuclear waste was being transported instead.”

– Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office

“The WCS site is supposed to be dry, but the company’s own monitoring well data frequently shows that water is present. The site is very close to the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides drinking and irrigation water for eight states in the middle of our country. What if the nation’s largest aquifer became contaminated by radioactivity?”

– Lon Burnam, a former state representative from Fort Worth, Texas

For more information about the effort to oppose high-level radioactive waste storage and disposal in West Texas, visit www.NoNuclearWasteAqui.org .