Texas Nuke Waste Expansion Defeated; Crucial July Hearing Looms

Those opposed to nuclear waste dumping in Texas scored a big victory this month when Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed legislation that would have let Waste Control Specialists off the hook for nearly $4 million in payments it owes to the state.

Unfortunately – very unfortunately – Abbott’s veto also killed legislation aimed at helping victims of domestic violence. But the nuke waste company giveaway had no business being on the domestic violence bill to begin with.

Here’s how it went down. Waste Control Specialists, or WCS, entered the 86th Legislative Session pushing for legislation that would have provided the for-profit West Texas nuke waste dump operator with handouts and concessions. The bills, sponsored by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo , and Repl Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, were both rightfully defeated in the House and Senate. Public Citizen, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition.   others testified in opposition and helped kill the legislation.

The Waste Control Specialists site in Andrews, Texas

The opposition stemmed in part from WCS’s refusal to acknowledge its intent to make Texas a dumping ground for high-level radioactive waste. The bills’ sponsors both acknowledged that they do not want to see spent nuclear fuel rods and other high-level waste come to Texas. WCS’s federal application for high-level storage is a violation of its previous promises to the legislature that it would never seek to bring high-level waste to Texas.

Unfortunately, WCS found a willing shill in Rep. Poncho Nevarez, a Democrat from Eagle Pass in South Texas, who snuck a financial handout to the radioactive waste company into a domestic violence bill sponsored by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, a Republican from Brenham.

Rep. Poncho Nevarez

Nevarez obscured the effect of his amendment when tacking it on to the unrelated domestic violence bill in the final hours of the legislature, saying it was about “economic competitive incentives” – whatever that means. Then Nevarez held the domestic violence bill hostage until he secured a giveaway for the radioactive waste company. As a result of Nevarez’s maneuvers, the state fund to clean up radioactive waste accidents would have been deprived of several million dollars over the next two years.

Even Abbott, who is hardly an environmental champion or known foe of the nuclear waste industry, wasn’t buying it, noting that “someone slipped in an ill-considered giveaway to a radioactive waste disposal facility.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

“Unfortunately, the bill author’s good idea about domestic violence has been dragged down by a bad idea about radioactive waste,” Abbott wrote in his veto statement.

This saga is far from over. On July 9-10, the the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board next month will consider applications from organizations seeking standing to present evidence in a separate WCS case. WCS wants to store and manage 40,000 tons of high-level nuke waste (spent fuel rods). The deadly waste would come from U.S. nuclear reactors and be dumped at a planned facility the company hopes to build at the site of its low-level waste storage operation in West Texas.

We’ll be tracking that debate and keeping you informed it stands.