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The Most Dangerous and Deadly Radioactive Waste Could Come Through Major Texas Cities and Be Dumped on West Texas

For Immediate Release: November 16, 2018

Karen Hadden, (512) 797-8481
Diane D’Arrigo (202) 841-8588,
Tom "Smitty" Smith, (512) 797-8468,
David Rosen, (432) 634-6081,
Adrian Shelley, (512) 477-1155,

Conservative Midland City Council Joins Growing List of Opponents
14 License Application Failures Detailed in Legal Filings

The Public Can Speak Out Until November 19th Against Plan to Dump the Most Dangerous of All Radioactive Waste in West Texas; Public Involvement Has Stopped Risky Waste Dumps Before

Austin – The most dangerous radioactive waste in the nation may be dumped in West Texas if a license is granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This waste could be coming from more than 100 nuclear reactors around the country. The NRC is accepting public comments on this license until November 19th Members of the public can send an editable letter from

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) seeks to store 40,000 tons of irradiated reactor fuel rods at their existing low-level radioactive waste site for 40 years, although their application says that the waste could remain "until a permanent repository is found." In other words, we could get stuck with it forever, at inadequate site that isn’t designed for the long-term. A de facto permanent disposal facility could be created for deadly waste that must remain isolated from people and the environment for literally a million years. Exposure to radiation can cause cancer, genetic damage and birth defects. Exposure to unshielded high-level radioactive waste is lethal.

On Tuesday, November 12, the conservative Midland City Council approved a resolution (6-0) opposing consolidated interim storage or permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste in West Texas and New Mexico or the transportation of this radioactive waste through or around the corporate limits of the City of Midland.

"This entire licensing case has cost untold thousands of hours and dollars to grassroots groups, and all of it is unnecessary," said Terry J. Lodge, attorney for Public Citizen, SEED Coalition and four other organizations. "The Waste Control Specialists license application is not legally authorized. The NRC has no authority to review it. It would take an act of Congress for WCS (and the Holtec facility, which also has a pending license application) to allow it to ever be built. And it adds insult to injury for the unlawful WCS proposal to not include even bare minimum protections for their own workers, the public and the West Texas/Eastern New Mexico region. If there is a serious crack, breach, leak of a spent fuel canister somewhere along a 1500-mile railroad trip, or once radioactive waste gets to WCS, there is zero way to stop contamination without risking many lives. ‘Irresponsible’ doesn’t begin to explain this multibillion dollar hoax." Fourteen major issues were addressed in the filings submitted to the NRC by the groups.

This deadly radioactive waste would be mainly shipped by rail, although barges and trucks may also be used. "Rail lines often run close to homes, schools, businesses and hospitals," said David Rosen, a concerned Midland resident. "Insurance policies generally don’t cover radiological impacts. An accident with a radiation release could cause disaster, impacting our health and costing billions of dollars to remediate. It could threaten the market for oil produced in the Permian Basin, one of the world’s most prolific sources of oil and gas. A decline in the production of oil and gas would affect the revenues coming in to Texas and New Mexico. Protecting the health, safety and economic well-being of Texans should take precedence over potential profits of a company that wants to bring in deadly nuclear reactor waste. The NRC should protect our health and safety and deny the license application."

"While the waste would not ne in bomb grade form, a single train car would carry as much plutonium as was in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki," said Tom "Smitty" Smith," Special Projects Director for Public Citizen’s Texas Office. "Radioactive waste moving through highly populated cities across the country could be targeted for sabotage by terrorists. An accident could catastrophe in major cities such as Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, El Paso or Midland. The waste would likely travel by rail alongside Highways I-10, I-20, I-30 and I-40 and then through the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. Why should West Texas be targeted as ground zero for the nation’s radioactive waste, which was created elsewhere? Other communities don’t want to store the dangerous waste they created, but why should we take it? "

The state of Texas could get stuck with huge costs if there was a radiation release. A report by Dr. Marvin Resnikoff on the consequences of sabotage, found that cleanup costs could range from $3.5 billion to $45 billion if casks were penetrated, but not perforated. Transportation sabotage events in which the casks are fully perforated could result in cleanup costs of $463 billion to $648 billion.

Opposition to the plan to dump on Texas keeps growing," said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. "Resolutions against transport of dangerous radioactive waste were passed by Bexar, Dallas, Nueces, El Paso and Midland Counties and by the cities of Midland, San Antonio and Denton. When people learn about what the plan to dump nuclear reactor waste on Texas, they don’t want it. Over 20,000 people have filed comments with the NRC rejecting this proposal. They want to protect the lives of their families."

"Federal regulations prohibit foreign ownership and control of WCS’s partner is Orano, a company largely owned by the French government. Orano would have a 51% share of the joint venture, giving them a controlling interest. This violates Foreign Ownership and Control regulations designed to keep the U.S. secure. Countries may be allies today, but at odds in the future. Relations with France could become increasingly strained under the current Administration.

"This plan would especially impact minority communities. It’s a major environmental justice issue," said Adrian Shelley, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. "In some areas within ½ mile of railroad tracks and switching yards, over 70% of the people are minorities. More than half of them speak Spanish at home and some don’t speak English well. The NRC should make the license application available in Spanish so that people can read about the risky project which could endanger their families."

"Public opposition to this plan can work. Texans have stopped 7 other proposals for high and low nuclear waste dumps over the last 40 years" said Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)

"The first step in the least risky approach to dealing with high-level radioactive waste would be to stop making more. Waste that already exists should be stored in robust, hardened, monitored, inspected and repairable storage systems designed. These must be built and maintained to prevent leaks, and be stored at or as near as possible to the original reactor sites. Nuclear waste should not be moved until there is permanent place that can isolate it. The NRC claims that irradiated nuclear fuel can be kept onsite in dry storage for 60 years after reactors cease operating." continued D’Arrigo.

The public can comment on the license application until November 19th. Comments on WCS/ ISP’s Consolidated Interim Storage Facility should include Docket ID NRC-2016-0231, and be emailed to

Comment letters can also be sent from


New Nuclear Energy and Fuel Waste Storage Facilities Emerging Near Carlsbad?

March 26, 2018

Adrian C Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

Nuclear war

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report, Nuclear War, cyber attacks and environmental disasters lead the record of man-made threats to international stability. Veuer’s Chandra Lanier has the story.

A repository for spent nuclear fuel rods was proposed to be built in west Texas, even as a southeast New Mexican consortium hopes for a similar facility near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

Orano USA, a subsidiary of France-based global nuclear energy company Orano – previously known as Areva, announced a joint venture with Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to bring a consolidated interim storage (CIS) facility to Andrews, Texas.

A CIS facility is used to store the spent nuclear fuel rods temporarily, while a permanent repository is built.

The rods are presently being stored at their generator sites: active and decommissioned nuclear reactor facilities around the country.

Proposed location of the Holtec/ELEA Underground Consolidated Interim Storage Facility. (Photo: courtesy map)

The move would augment WCS’ 14,000-acre facility in west Texas, which is licensed for low-grade nuclear waste, but not for spent nuclear fuel.

The United States does not have a permanent repository, after the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain project in Nevada stalled under the administration of former U.S. President Barrack Obama.

The joint venture, known as Interim Storage Partners, requested on March 13 that the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resume reviewing the project’s license application, originally submitted in April 2016, and put on hold due to a funding shortfall.

"The joint venture will provide safety, flexibility and value for used nuclear fuel titleholders and reduce U.S. taxpayer liabilities for ongoing storage, while plans for a permanent federal repository continue," said Orano USA Chief Executive Officer Sam Shakir.

In total, the facility would hold about 40,000 metric tons of the waste, stored above ground and accepted in 5,000-ton phases, records show.

Officials predicted it could begin accepting waste by 2021.

"This industry-driven near-term solution will use proven storage technology and procedures to expand the capabilities and operations at the WCS site to include consolidated interim storage of commercial used nuclear fuel."

Competition to the west?

Meanwhile, Holtech International and the Eddy/Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA) proposed building a new facility between Carlsbad and Hobbs to hold about 120,000 metric tons of similar waste.

The project’s application for the first 8,680 metric tons was accepted for review last month by the NRC, and officials expect it could open by 2022.

Chair of ELEA John Heaton said there’s enough waste to go around, but a facility in New Mexico is essential to the state’s growing nuclear corridor.

"When we started our project, we knew this was also a potential project for WCS," Heaton said. "We had anticipated they would get back into CIS activity. From our perspective, there’s a lot of waste out there. Lots of spent fuel. There may be other competitors."

(Photo: Holtec International)
A rendering of what Holtec International’s interim nuclear waste repository would look like if completed. (Photo: Holtec International)

Heaton pointed to WCS’s location, close to Eunice and New Mexico’s eastern border with Texas. He said such a facility in Texas would burden New Mexico’s roads and infrastructure without any benefit to New Mexicans, such as jobs and tax revenue.

"It’s clearly important to New Mexico to have our facility in place," Heaton said. "If WCS is the only one in place, New Mexico has all the responsibility. (The facility) is clearly more of responsibility of New Mexico, and Texas gets all the benefits."

Any emergencies at either facility, Heaton argued, would be responded to by New Mexican law enforcement and New Mexico emergency personnel, regardless of the state line.

"It won’t be Andrews that responds," Heaton said. "It will be New Mexico that does. Politicians should be very interested in where the project is."

The safety and security at Holtech’s proposed site would also be superior that pf WCS, Heaton said.

"I don’t think the WCS project even holds a candle to ours," he said. "We have the safest, most secure system in the world. Our project is so superior, I can’t imagine anyone would choose WCS over Holtech. We’re pressing on."

And until a permanent repository can be developed, Heaton said CIS is essential to the nuclear security of the United States.

"CIS is desperately needed in this country right now," he said. "Yucca is probably two or three decades away, even if they decide to move forward with it."

"There are specific differences, but the fundamental problems are the same," Hancock said. "Both of these are bad projects that shouldn’t go forward. We don’t have spent nuclear fuel in Texas or New Mexico, and we don’t need it."
– Don Hancock, Nuclear Waste Program Director at the Southwest Research and Information Center

But critics aren’t convinced interim storage, and the needed transportation of the waste, is necessary ahead of a permanent repository.

Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste program at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque said the spent fuel should be left where it is.

He said the waste can be safely stored at the generator sites, until a permanent repository is opened.

"I think they’re both equally bad, dangerous and uneconomic," Hancock said. "All the things that are wrong with Holtech are wrong with WCS. We don’t need consolidated storage, we’re already storing the waste at or near the generator sites."

Logistically, Hancock said the WCS site makes more sense, as it would use existing infrastructure, and is near active train tracks.

The WCS facility is also already open, he argued, and is storing lower-grade waste. He also pointed to heavy oil and gas development around Hobbs and Carlsbad, creating risks for Holtech’s underground storage system.

"There are specific differences, but the fundamental problems are the same," Hancock said. "Both of these are bad projects that shouldn’t go forward. We don’t have spent nuclear fuel in Texas or New Mexico, and we don’t need it."

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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.

NRC Staff Urges Rejection of Motions to Dismiss Spent Fuel Storage Applications

SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

Rad Waste Monitor

Staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is recommending rejection of two separate motions calling for dismissal of license applications for facilities to store spent nuclear reactor fuel in Texas and New Mexico.

The motion from the advocacy group Beyond Nuclear and a joint filing from energy firm Fasken Land and Minerals and the Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners "e;should be dismissed for failure to comply with NRC requirements,” according to the staff response, dated Sept. 24 and posted to the agency website on Tuesday.

In separate filings to the agency, the companies planning the storage facilities also this week argued against terminating their license applications.

The NRC is reviewing Holtec International’s March 2017 application for a southeastern New Mexico storage facility with an anticipated maximum capacity for over 170,000 metric tons of spent fuel, along with an application revived earlier this year by Orano-Waste Control Specialists joint venture Interim Storage Partners for a 40,000-metric-ton-capacity site in West Texas. Both licenses would have initial periods of 40 years for facilities that, with regulatory approval, would open in the early 2020s.

The dismissal petitions argue the license applications violate the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act requirement that a permanent disposal facility be available before the Department of Energy become responsible for transport or storage of spent reactor fuel. The petitioners also warn of the potential dangers of transport and storage of highly radioactive waste.

The United States is years if not decades away from establishing a congressionally mandated permanent repository for its stockpile of spent reactor fuel and high-level radioactive waste. Congress this month again blocked efforts to fund licensing for the planned disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

Interim storage has been seen as an option to centralize spent fuel now stranded on-site at dozens of nuclear power plants around the country. Supporters see the projects bringing economic benefits to the regions and emphasize the history of safe radioactive waste management in the United States. Opponents worry about the threat posed by a breach of that safety record and suspect temporary storage could easily become permanent. Groups on both sides have filed to intervene in the NRC proceeding.

In the response to the dismissal motions, NRC staff noted that Beyond Nuclear and other groups had previously made a similar case against the 2016 license application for the Texas project when it was headed solely by Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists.

"e;The Commission unequivocally stated at the time that a petition to intervene is the appropriate place to raise concerns with a license application, including the legal argument that an application is inconsistent with the NWPA,” staff said. That should be its position in this case as well, according to the recommendation.

Staff added that both dismissal motions came in after the 10-day time frame set under federal regulations "e;of the circumstances from which the motion arises.” That would be the dates at which the agency accepted the applications for full technical reviews – March 19 of this year for Holtec and Aug. 29 for the slightly updated application from Interim Storage Partners.

There was no schedule for a decision by the five-person commission on the license application dismissal motions and staff recommendation, NRC spokesman David McIntyre said Tuesday.

Beyond Nuclear has also petitioned to intervene in the NRC licensing review for Holtec and said this week intends to do so for the Interim Storage Partners application. That would allow the organization to file formal contentions against the application. The Takoma Park, Md.-based antinuclear group also expects to petition the NRC to be allowed to respond to the staff finding on its dismissal motion. "e;We’re going to fight them at every turn,” Kevin Kamps, the organization’s radioactive waste watchdog, said in a telephone call.

Monica Perales, a staff attorney for Fasken Oil and Ranch, added in a statement to RadWaste Monitor: "e;Our concerns are legitimate, so it is unfortunate that they are exploiting procedure to try and skirt the merits of our argument.”

In its dismissal motion earlier this month, Fasken said it has oil and gas resources roughly 2 miles from the planned Holtec storage facility in Lea County, between the cities of Hobbs and Carlsbad. Permian Basin Land and Royalty Owners represents oil and gas operators and royalty owners in the region straddling the two states who believe their financial interests could be harmed by local spent fuel storage. Their joint petition raises concerns about a potential radiation release from the facilities, along with the general threat to property values if storage operations begin.

Holtec and Interim Storage Partners as of Monday had also submitted responses opposing the application dismissals.

Interim Storage Partners called the Beyond Nuclear filing "e;procedurally and substantively deficient on multiple, independent grounds.” Among these, it said: Beyond Nuclear has no standing to make the case for dismissal as it would not be injured by the Texas project, and in any case (as NRC staff said) its filing comes far too late.

Holtec made similar arguments in its largely identical responses to the petitions from both Beyond Nuclear and the Fasken-Permian Basin group.

"e;The Commission should dismiss the Motion because Movants have failed to demonstrate their standing, because the Motion is grossly out of time, and because the Commission has already ruled that this issue can and should be raised as a contention in a licensing proceeding, rather than through a motion to dismiss,” the company said in both documents.

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.