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Texas Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly Against Nuclear Waste Storage

AUSTIN – In a near unanimous vote in the waning hours of the Texas Legislature’s special session, lawmakers demonstrated staunch opposition to the storage of high-level radioactive waste in Texas.

The Texas Senate approved House Bill 7 unanimously and the bill cleared the House by a 119-3 margin on Sept. 2, marking rare bipartisan agreement in the Texas Legislature. The bill enacts a ban on the storage of high-level radioactive waste – including spent nuclear fuel – in Texas. The legislation is intended to express opposition to a pending license application before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and to direct the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to deny any state permits for the project.

“These strong bipartisan votes are a clear message from the Texas Legislature to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that when it comes to storage of deadly radioactive waste in Texas, we don’t want it,” said SEED Coalition Director Karen Hadden. “We hope the bill will provide the safety protections Texans need and prevent unnecessary transportation risks nationwide.”

While the bill sends a strong message to the NRC, those advocating against nuclear waste dumping in Texas are concerned with the omission of reactor-related “Greater Than Class C” waste from the bill. The pending federal license application could result in reactor-relayed GTCC waste, which can be just as deadly as high-level waste, coming to Texas.

Opposition to the nation’s high-level waste coming to Texas for storage was also expressed in a recent resolution by Andrews County in West Texas, which could host the facility if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses a facility.

Five other counties and three cities have passed similar resolutions, representing 5.4 million Texans. School districts, the Midland Chamber of Commerce and oil and gas companies have joined environmental and faith-based groups in opposing the dangerous plan. Gov. Greg Abbott has also written strongly-worded letters to the NRC opposing the plan. Letters and a recent press release are online www.NoNuclearWaste.org. The enrolled version of HB 7 is online here.

“The U.S. Nuclear regulatory Commission is likely to issue in the next few days a license to store up to 40,000 metric tons of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear reactor waste in Andrews County,” said Adrian Shelley, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “With the passage of this bill, the state can deny the permits necessary to dump new waste at the site.”

“This bill will help support our legal case opposing licensing for high-level radioactive waste storage, which is now at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

SEED Coalition, Beyond Nuclear and a coalition of oil and gas industries led by Fasken Oil and Ranch also have cases on appeal.

“The passage of the bill is a victory for many volunteers who have worked to ensure protection of the health, safety, environment and economy of Texas,” said former State Representative Lon Burnam.

The governor is expected to sign the bill soon, allowing it to become effective before NRC’s licensing decision.”