Activists call for city to oppose waste deliveries through city limits

February 28, 2017

Midland Reporter-Telegram

WCS radioactive transport casks
Waste Control Specialists (WCS) near Andrews, Texas has two Robatel RT-100 radioactive transport casks. These casks are used to transport Class B and C radioactive waste. WCS provides services to store low-level nuclear waste and is in the process of applying for a license to be an interim storage facility for high-level radioactive waste. Opposition has mostly stemmed from activists outside the area but some residents are also voicing concerns about their city becoming the nation’s dump site for potentially hazardous nuclear material. The Governmental Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has held hearings regarding the potential environmental impact of permitting WCS in far West Texas and activists along with proponents have been vocal in those hearings. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News) Photo: Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News / ©2017 San Antonio Express-News

A Midland geologist told the Midland City Council that public hearings are needed for Midlanders to decide on having high-level nuclear waste travel through the city.

David Rosen, who is also the chairman for the Midland County Democratic Party, told the council Tuesday it should pass a resolution similar to the one passed last month by Bexar County Commissioners. The resolution, according to the San Antonio Express-News, opposes shipments of thousands of pounds of spent nuclear fuel rods from more than 62 sites across the U.S. to a waste site in Andrews County.

"This poison will be coming through on our railroad tracks," Rosen said.

Rosen said the waste doesn’t need to go through Midland County because "things break," and when cleanup costs associated with such nuclear waste can rise into the billions, it is better to have it travel elsewhere.

Rosen and another geologist, Bridget Houston Hyde, said there were reasons to oppose H.R. 474, the Interim Consolidated Storage Act. That bill seeks to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 "to authorize the Secretary of Energy to enter into contracts for the storage of certain high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, take title to certain high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, and make certain expenditures from the Nuclear Waste Fund."

Rosen said waste will be "left out in the open" and be visible by Google Earth maps, making the Waste Control Specialists facility in Andrews County a target for potential terrorism. He also said there have been earthquakes in the region, including a magnitude 4.7 quake that hit Andrews in 1992.

Hyde spoke to the legislation supported by U.S. Congressman Mike Conaway of Midland. The legislation allows up to 40,000 metric tons of high-level waste to be stored in Andrews. She said there are example of private companies taking over high-level radioactive waste sites and some of those are "Superfund sites." She said Texas is better to avoid the billions of dollars in cleanup that would have to take place if there was a problem in Andrews County.

"As a Texan, I cannot see how this serves as our state," Hyde said. "Cities along the route will be put at risk."

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