Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Radioactive Waste: Coming Soon to a Texas Highway Near You

Photo by Daniel Reese/KUT

Traffic on I-35 and MLK Boulevard in Austin.

Just a day after 130 people were arrested protesting the Yankee nuclear power plant in Vermont, a commission of Texas and Vermont officials voted on new rules to allow low level nuclear waste from around the country to be brought to Texas for storage.

The vote from the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission put the final touches on a process approved by the State Legislature last year.  Under the new rules, radioactive waste from other states can be transported to Texas for storage along the Texas/New Mexico border.

The storage facility is owned by Harold Simmons, a Dallas billionaire and major financial backer of Governor Rick Perry and other Texas politicians. It is “the only facility in the United States licensed in the last 30 years to dispose of Class A, B and C low-level radioactive waste,” according to it’s website.

Some opponents worry about radioactive spills on the highway and possible water contamination at the site. They say they’ll closely watch each application to transport waste as it goes before the commission for approval.

“We also want to make sure that [the waste] is packaged properly,” Karen Hadden, the Executive Director of the anti nuclear-power group the SEED coalition, told StateImpact Texas.

Hadden also raised concerns that the Commission, which will now review applications to transport and store waste from all states except Vermont and Texas, is not funded adequately enough to handle the work load.

“You can’t even find out about their meetings online” said Hadden, pointing out that the Commission’s website still had information from a January 5th meeting posted on their website on the date of the March 23 meeting.

Supporters of the plan say it would mean an economic boost to the West Texas community where the storage facility will be located and that sufficient safety measures are in place.

“Shipping into this facility is going to be the hardest of any facility here in the country,” John McCormick with the radioactive waste transportation company Bionomics, told the Commission today.

With final approval granted today, Texas highways may be carrying the low level radioactive waste as early as April 2012.


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