There’s a lot going on at our least favorite West Texas hole in the ground.
The Dallas Morning News ran an editorial last week that raised multiple alarms about the Waste Control Specialists’ low-level radioactive waste facility. The opening paragraph was a good statement about the bait-and-switch nature of the dump:
The nuclear waste disposal site operated by Waste Control Specialists in West Texas is steadily morphing away from its original mission as a depository for very limited quantities of low-level radioactive items from Texas and Vermont. Today, the site is taking on much greater quantities and higher levels of radioactive waste from multiple states, and its owner wants permission to dramatically expand operations.
Thanks to the Texas Legislature, the modest two-state site originally approved is now open to low-level waste from across the country. And that’s not the only change to the original concept:
In April, Waste Control contracted with the U.S. Energy Department to store hundreds of truckloads of waste from nearly seven decades of nuclear research at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the world’s first atomic bomb was developed. Some of the waste comes from a temporary storage facility in Carlsbad, N.M., where radioactive leaks occurred in February.
The editorial concludes:
If this mission creep continues, Texans could find themselves the unwitting hosts of the nation’s first permanent for-profit high-level nuclear waste facility. If Waste Control’s intention is to build such a site, it owes Texans a straightforward, transparent declaration of these plans so a full public debate can occur.
Midland television station NewsWest 9 had more details last week on expansion plans for the dump:
The Waste Control Specialist site in Andrews is looking to expand. Right now, WCS in Andrews can legally hold up to 2.3 million cubic square feet in radioactive waste. But years down the road, the capacity could skyrocket to nine million cubic feet. That’s triple its current size.
“WCS has filed a license amendment with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality regarding its compact disposal facility to be expanded if the need was there for additional capacity for disposal,” WCS Spokesman, Chuck McDonald, said.
The San Angelo Standard-Times ran a piece the week before last that had another couple of pieces of bad news:
The company operating Texas’ only radioactive waste dump site is asking state regulators to allow disposal of depleted uranium and triple the capacity of a burial site that accepts waste from dozens of states.
Although Waste Control Specialists says the uranium stored at its West Texas site would have only low-level radioactivity, opponents say the proposal would get the company another step closer to handling more dangerous material that wasn’t part of the original license. The company has already been in talks with county officials about high-level waste disposal.
And, while Waste Control Specialists are trying to expand their footprint and increase the types of radioactive material they can accept, they are also attempting to reduce their liability in case of an accident:
Meanwhile, the Dallas-based business has also asked the state to reduce the money it’s required to have available to fund potential liability at the site — to about $86 million from $136 million.
“The public should be paying attention, but they’re not,” said state Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who has taken an active role in monitoring how the state handles radioactive waste. “We have less and less financial assurances and greater threat for more harm.”
Here’s a link to the Dallas Morning News editorial: http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20140618-editorial-time-for-discussion-on-radioactive-waste.ece
Here’s one to the NewsWest 9 piece: http://www.newswest9.com/story/25812584/wcs-in-andrews-looking-to-expand-in-future-and-lower-liability-claims
And here’s a link to the San Angelo Standard-Times article: http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2014/jun/14/waste-dump-seeks-uranium/