No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

NRC seeks safety details about proposed nuclear waste site

Waste Control Specialists prepare for the grand opening in November 2011 of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Facility in Andrews County. WCS may become a temporary storage facility for high-level nuclear waste if the license it seeks is approved

July 24, 2016

By Corey Paul cpaul@oaoa.com
Odessa Ameerican

WCS sends first batch of answers this week in routine request

WCS Storage Facility
Radioactive Waste Facility File Photo: Waste Control Specialists prepare for the grand opening in November 2011 of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Facility in Andrews County. WCS may become a temporary storage facility for high-level nuclear waste if the license it seeks is approved. – Odessa American File Photo

Waste Control Specialists recently began providing federal regulators with more details about plans to store high-level nuclear waste in Andrews County, after a letter from the agency fueled opponents’ criticisms that the company is unfit for the task.

The June 22 letter from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Mark Lombard said the company’s application "does not contain sufficient technical information" relating to security plans and the safety of dry storage casks.

The agency asked for more details in order to begin a technical review of the application that WCS submitted in April.

This week, WCS responded with the some of the requested information and clarified a sticking point — questions about what nuclear materials the storage site will accept decades from now, WCS spokesman Chuck McDonald, said. He also provided copies of letters from the company. WCS is seeking initial approval to store up to 40,000 metric tons.

WCS officials clarified the company only wants a license to store the materials such as spent nuclear fuel rods using a design and method already approved by the federal regulator. In the first phase lasting a decade or longer, that would amount to about 5,000 metric tons. If the company wanted to store other material in the future, the NRC would have to OK it first.

WCS is scheduled to send further responses to the NRC over the next three months. NRC spokeswoman Maureen Conley, who described the follow up by the agency to WCS’ application as "not at all unusual," said the initial response was supposed to answer about half of the questions submitted to the company.

McDonald described the request from the NRC as part of "the licensing dance that we are going to do for the next three years."

"It’s actually a really good sign," McDonald said. "We submitted this 3,000-page document, and they came back pretty quickly in June, and said here’s a bunch more stuff we need from you guys. What would have been a problem is if we don’t hear from them for a year and then they go, well, we are missing all these pieces."

Groups opposed to the WCS’ effort to store high-level nuclear waste in Andrews County pounced on Lombard’s letter as a sign of key omissions that reflected unpreparedness.

"WCS failed to provide a lot of the information required by the NRC to assure this is a safe site," Tom "Smitty" Smith, the director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, said in a statement. "Why should we trust a company that can’t get its paperwork complete to safely construct and operate a facility that could hold up to 40,000 metric tons of lethal nuclear waste for 40 or more years?"

But Conley described the agency’s request for more information as routine. Staff expected to make fewer of them, Conley said in an email," but "it is not overly troubling given the large scope of the application and the number of different spent fuel storage systems being addressed in it."

Part of the NRC’s review will include local hearings seeking input from the public about the scope of the agency’s environmental assessment. WCS officials asked the NRC to start that process now, and Conley said the agency is considering that request.

Meanwhile, the NRC in April received a letter of intent from Holtec International, one of the nuclear industry’s titans, to open a competing interim storage facility in Lea County, N.M. The effort is backed by the Eddy Lea Energy Alliance, a company formed by the governments of Carlsbad, Hobbs and Eddy and Lea counties. Like the proposed WCS facility, Holtec International is proposing a long-term facility that could last 100 years but seek a license from the NRC for the first 40 years.

Another nuclear giant, Areva, backs the WCS project.

Both projects are driven by a lack of a permanent disposal for spent nuclear fuel rods the United States after Congress in 2010 nixed funding for the proposed site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Today, spent fuel is kept at nuclear reactors, while the federal government continues to take in money from utilities into a multi-billion dollar fund for a permanent disposal site.

A company that builds an interim disposal site could make billions, and Andrews County along with the State of Texas would share in that windfall. So far, Andrews has received about $7.8 million in direct payments from disposal fees for the low-level waste that WCS buried at the site in the rural county during the past four years, according to figures provided by the company. The state’s share has been about $36 million.

Contact Corey Paul on Twitter @OAcrude on Facebook at OA Corey Paul or call 432-333-7768.

License application for Andrews nuclear waste site missing key safety, security details

June 30th 2016

By Julia Deng, Reporter
KXXV News

KXXV video

Waste Control Specialists has until late July to submit the information omitted in their initial license application. (Source: KWES)

ANDREWS COUNTY, TX (KWES) – Federal regulators declined to review a license application submitted by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) for a high-level nuclear waste facility in Andrews County, records revealed.

WCS, a Dallas-based company with a nearly 15,000-acre site in western Andrews County, filed the application with plans to expand its existing low-level radioactive waste site.

The proposed facility would house spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors across the country for at least 40 years.

However, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) officials determined the company’s license application lacked "sufficient technical information"and safety-related details, according to a letter dated June 22 from the commission to WCS.

"There may have been some things that we needed to get them,"explained Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for the company. "We didn’t give them the proper information the first time around, but our technical folks have looked through the NRC’s letter and we’re confident that we’ll be able to get them all the additional information that they need by their July 28th [deadline]."

The application submitted by WCS failed to include appropriate emergency plans and adequate information about how accidents involving radioactive waste storage casks could be prevented, among other safety- and security-related details, according to a 30-page "Request for Supplemental Information and Observations"from regulators.

"Why should we trust a company that can’t get its paperwork complete to safely construct and operate a facility that could hold up to 40,000 metric tons of lethal nuclear reactor waste for 40 or more years?” said Tom Smith, regional director for Public Citizen, a non-profit safety advocacy group. "This isn’t just a paperwork issue. It’s a serious safety issue."

McDonald, an Austin resident, said he "would have no concerns at all"about living near the facility.

"In 50 years of transporting nuclear waste around the country, there has never – as in zero – been an accident that resulted in the release of radioactive material,"he said.

WCS has until late July to respond with the required application materials.

If sufficient information cannot be submitted, officials said, the application ultimately may not be accepted for review.

"The incomplete WCS license application reflects disregard for people around Texas who would be put at radioactive risk,” Smith said. "Andrews County should rescind their approval of this project and only reconsider it if and when WCS can prove they can handle this waste safely.”

Andrews County officials did not immediately return calls for comment.

Copyright 2016 KWES. All rights reserved.

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Federal Government Says License Application Is Incomplete, Highlighting Folly of West Texas Radioactive Waste Dump Proposal

For Immediate Release:
June 30, 2016

Contact:
Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen, smitty@citizen.org, 512-797-8468
Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, karendhadden@gmail.com, 512-797-8481

WCS Application Lacks Needed Storage Cask Safety and Site Security Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The federal government’s conclusion that Waste Control Specialists’ (WCS) omitted key safety and security information from its license application for a high-level radioactive waste dump at its Andrews County site in Texas highlights the dangers of the proposal, Public Citizen and SEED Coalition said today.

WCS seeks to expand its existing low-level waste site to take high-level radioactive waste from across the country. If approved, spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors around the country would be transported to Texas and stored for 40 years or longer, risking the possibility of creating a de-facto permanent disposal facility.

In a June 22 letter to WCS, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) determined that the license application for the proposed West Texas high-level radioactive waste storage site lacks sufficient technical information, including information regarding storage cask safety and how the site would be secured. WCS’ response is due in late July. The NRC can then decide whether or not to accept the application for technical review.

“WCS failed to provide a lot of the information required by the NRC to assure this is a safe site. Why should we trust a company that can’t get its paperwork complete to safely construct and operate a facility that could hold up to 40,000 metric tons of lethal nuclear reactor waste for 40 or more years?” asked Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. The NRC also pointed out that WCS had failed to look at cumulative impacts of the radioactivity from contributions not only from the proposed facility but also other facilities in the region. WCS operates a “low-level” and a federal radioactive waste site at their same Andrews County location and LES operates a reprocessing facility nearby.

“The NRC pointed out many holes in the WCS license application, some involving important safety issues. WCS was asked to explain in detail how they would inspect radioactive waste canisters for damage when they’re received,” said Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition. “The company’s application said that casks will be visually inspected, but more information was requested by the NRC about the equipment, procedures and monitoring systems that would be used. These processes are needed to assure shielding from radiation and that waste remains confined. The plans can’t be half-baked.”

The proposed high-level radioactive waste site is located on the border of Texas and New Mexico, near the Ogallala Aquifer. The NRC asked for more information about WCS’ water diversion berms and how aquifer contamination would be prevented.
The NRC also said that:

  • The application lacks adequate information about how accidents involving radioactive waste storage casks would be prevented.
  • The application doesn’t account for degradation of the canisters
  • Details are needed regarding the site’s emergency plan.
  • Current information about the vegetation and wildlife near the site is lacking,
  • More information is needed projections of population growth and predicted demographics of local communities.
  • More information is needed regarding the site’s weather assessment and water diversion berms in relation to flooding.
  • The application said that temperatures can reach 110 degrees, but some casks list a normal ambient temperature range up to 101 degrees F.

“Not only is the application incomplete, but it’s also premature,” said Hadden. “Since no one wants radioactive waste in their backyard, the Department of Energy – DOE – is looking for communities to “volunteer” to take it. The agency is still developing a “consent-based siting” process for radioactive waste storage and disposal. They’ve held six meetings elsewhere, but never talked to people in targeted Texas / New Mexico communities or held a hearing in either state.” Based on the fact that 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 11,000-person city never got to vote.”

“Dumping the most dangerous radioactive waste on largely Hispanic communities that do not consent and lack resources to fight back is extreme environmental injustice,” said Hadden. The targeted communities didn’t generate the waste or benefit from the electricity produced. Why should they get dumped by the whole country now and have to suffer with health-threatening waste in their backyard? ”

WCS’ plan would likely involve more than 10,000 shipments of radioactive waste generated across much of the United States over 20 or more years. One 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. 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.”
“This week two trains in Texas collided head on, creating a huge fireball and causing at least two deaths. What would have happened if one of these trains had been hauling radioactive waste?” asked Hadden.

“The incomplete WCS license application to store high-level radioactive waste from around the country reflects disregard for people throughout Texas who would be put at radioactive risk,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith. “Andrews County Commissioners should rescind their approval of this project and only reconsider it if and when WCS can prove they can handle this waste safely.’

###

Two Train Crew Members Found Dead After Texas Crash

National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrive at scene to determine cause of crash

two trains wreck in Texas
BNSF said Wednesday that the remains of two crew members have been recovered a day after two of the company’s trains collided in Panhandle, Texas, starting a fire. One other employee is in the hospital and another is presumed dead.

Photo: Sean Steffen/Amarillo Globe-News /Associated Press

June 29, 2016

By Imani Moise
Amarillo Globe-News /Associated Press

Two railroad employees were found dead and a third is still missing following a fiery train collision in Panhandle, Texas.

BNSF Railway Co. said Wednesday that the remains of two crew members have been recovered. Of the two other employees involved in the crash, one is in stable condition at a local hospital and another is presumed dead by local officials.

"The entire BNSF family is terribly saddened by this event and we extend our deepest sympathy and thoughts to the families and friends of the employees involved in this incident," said BNSF Chief Executive Carl Ice in a statement.

BNSF said the crew members’ families have been notified, but it isn’t releasing the names.

Two trains operated by BNSF were traveling toward each other on the same track and collided around 8:25 a.m. on Tuesday approximately 27 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, according to the railroad. The trains were carrying a combined 195 loads, and many of the containers were damaged.

Six investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Panhandle around 2 p.m. Wednesday to determine the cause of the accident. Senior investigator Richard Hipskind said the team would examine the data reports, human performance and equipment among other factors as part of the investigation.

Digital video recorders were present on both trains and may be used in the investigation.

"Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened and to make recommendations or changes to prevent it from happening again," Mr. Hipskind said in a press conference.

The investigation may last up to five days, Mr. Hipskind said, and the NTSB won’t publicly speculate about what caused the accident while they are on the scene. The search for the third crew member is ongoing but has been made difficult by strong winds and smoldering wreckage, he said.

Nearby residents were evacuated, a Panhandle city spokeswoman said. A diesel fire caused by the collision was contained at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Sgt. Dan Buesing of the Texas Highway Patrol, a part of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Late that day, authorities shifted the focus of their investigation on the four crew members from a search and rescue to a recovery mission.

Apart from the railway and the land immediately surrounding the collision, Sgt. Buesing said no other property was damaged.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration are conducting independent investigations to determine the cause of the accident.

The railroad has said that a new safety technology known as positive train control was slated for installation later this year along the area of track where the crash occurred, something intended to prevent these types of accidents.

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.