No Nuclear Waste! We Dont Want It!

Feds Give Thumbs-Up to West Texas Nuclear Waste Plan

May 6, 2020

TRAVIS BUBENIK
Courthouse News Service

A view of an existing site in West Texas where a company wants to store toxic waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants. (Photo courtesy of Waste Control Specialists)

(CN) — A federal review of a plan to move highly radioactive nuclear waste to rural West Texas from sites across the U.S. has concluded that regulators should approve the plan because it would not lead to significant environmental problems.

The nearly 500-page draft report released Monday is a significant milestone that follows years of ups and downs on the proposal, which would involve shipping thousands of tons of spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear power plants to a remote facility on the West Texas-New Mexico border.

A company called Interim Storage Partners wants to eventually bring about half of the nation’s growing, problematic stockpile of high-level nuclear waste to an existing toxic waste site in rural Andrews County, Texas. Under the proposal, the waste would likely sit there for decades until the government decides on a more permanent way to dispose of it.

The company is a joint venture of the site’s current operator, Waste Control Specialists, and the American arm of global nuclear power firm Orano.

Environmental groups have long opposed the plan, arguing in part that it would threaten cities and towns across the U.S. as the waste moves by rail to the Texas site.

In recent months, the groups have hit dead ends in their attempts to fight the project in regulatory proceedings, with some advocates complaining that they felt unjustly pushed out of the debate.

In the draft report released Monday, staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the full commission should approve an initial 40-year license for the company to bring about 5,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to West Texas. If granted, the license could later be expanded to allow up to 40,000 metric tons.

The report concluded the plan would only cause small or moderate impacts to things like air and water quality, historic and cultural resources and public health, according to a 20-page summary.


A map of where nuclear waste would be sent to in Texas. (Image via Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
"After considering the environmental impacts of the proposed action, the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation is issuance of an NRC license," the commission said in a statement announcing the report.

Karen Hadden, who leads the environmental advocacy group SEED Coalition and has fought the proposal for years, described the commission’s review as "woefully inadequate."

"The NRC does not seem to be taking health and safety and security concerns seriously," she said in an interview. "They’re just trying to ram this project though and it’s putting us at risk. There could be accidents, there could be leaks, there could be hijacking of radioactive material."

Hadden said her group continues to formally appeal its rejection from the regulatory proceedings. She said the group will push the commission to hold public meetings in cities like Dallas and San Antonio, where the waste could travel through, in addition to the several meetings the commission said it will hold in and around Andrews County.

While Monday’s report is a step forward for the long-simmering West Texas proposal, it’s still far from a done deal.

Regulators plan to take public comments on the draft environmental report, for a longer-than-usual period of time because of the coronavirus pandemic, and to hold an online webinar in addition to the public meetings. After that, the commission will work on a finalized version of the report and a parallel safety review of the plan that will be released in the spring of 2021. A final decision on the plan would follow.

Meanwhile, the same regulators are also considering a rival plan that would bring the nuclear waste to a different site in the same general area, but instead just across the Texas border in southeastern New Mexico.

Like with the Texas plan, a subset of the NRC recently rejected environmental groups’ protests to the New Mexico plan, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Politics could ultimately play into the fate of the nuclear waste debate as well, as it has before.

In February, President Donald Trump seemed to backtrack on his own administration’s attempted revival of a plan to dump the nation’s nuclear waste at a site called Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Obama administration had previously abandoned the plan after years of pushback from Nevada residents and elected officials.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has in the past voiced displeasure at the idea of expanding the types of nuclear waste that are stored at the Andrews County site, saying he doesn’t want Texas to become “the radioactive waste dumping ground of America.”

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report released Monday.

Copyright © 2020 courthousenews.com

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.

Federal officials recommend storage of nuclear waste in West Texas

May 07, 2020

By Jakob Brandenburg
KOSA/CBS7

WEST TEXAS — The federal government has taken another step toward storing the nation’s nuclear waste in West Texas.

This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report recommending the approval for radioactive waste to be transported across Texas, and stored in Andrews County.

The existing facility near the Texas-New Mexico Border is operated by Waste Control Specialists, and a joint venture called Interim Storage Partners hopes to bring the nation’s high-level nuclear waste to the facility.

"The employees of WCS live here and are part of this community," Elicia Sanchez with Interim Storage Partners said. "We are very confident in the safety of our facility, and very excited about the opportunity that it will bring the community of Andrews."

If approved, the company would receive a 40-year license to bring about 5000 metric tons of nuclear waste to West Texas.

And while the company and its website swear by the safety of the storage process, Andrews County residents are still worried.

"Very dangerous," Elizabeth Padilla with the group ‘Save Andrews County’ said. "We’re talking about the nation’s spent fuel from nuclear reactors across the country. The waste that nobody wants. The high radioactive waste."

Those against the storage of waste say that people in Andrews aren’t the only ones who should be concerned.

To get to the facility, the nuclear waste must travel by truck or train through Texas cities

"Midland in particular it would definitely come right through the downtown area," Karen Hadden with SEED Coalition said. "This material has to be isolated from living things for a million years, and there is no way that a facility in Texas, the one that’s being looked at, could do that."

The public is now allowed to comment on the draft and attend meetings held by the NRC.

The final environmental impact statement is scheduled to be released in May of 2021.

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.

NorthStar: Vermont Yankee demolition ahead of schedule

October 18, 2019

By Susan Smallheer
Brattleboro Reformer

VERNON — Nine months into the demolition of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, NorthStar CEO Scott State says the project is already about six months ahead of schedule. He said the company has been able to make progress by "doing things differently."

State said the project was divided up into three, two-year segments, and that the company will complete the project ahead of the 2030 deadline easily and on budget.

NorthStar’s partner for the first segment of the project, Orano USA, is already cutting up the nuclear reactor’s internals and getting them ready for shipment to another partner’s waste site in western Texas.

State said he originally expected the job would be completed by 2026.

"I think we’ll be done well before 2026," he said Thursday during a tour of the Vernon site with reporters, giving an update of the $500-plus million project. "We are months ahead of schedule."

State said despite the pace, the company had recently reached 220,000 man hours on the site with no ‘lost-time accidents,’ which he said is a tribute to the company’s planning and safety culture.

"These are big logistical jobs," he said.

State said NorthStar was in negotiations with the town of Vernon about leaving untouched some buildings and components, as long as they pass a radiological survey. NorthStar’s administrative building, which sits outside the security fence surrounding the plant and the de-construction zone, is one asset the town is interested in, State said.

He said he hopes to transfer some of the "assets" to Vernon even before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission releases the entire site from federal oversight.

"This is the community’s asset," said State. "We’re not developers."

The plant’s intake structure on the Connecticut River is another item the town is interested in, said David Pearson, NorthStar’s vice president.

COOLING TOWERS

Vermont Yankee’s iconic dual bank of cooling towers are now gone, leaving a large field free of tons of debris, but still sporting a 250,000 gallon hole that was an emergency reservoir for the plant.

"We’ll fill it in," said Corey Daniels, a longtime employee at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, as he and others climbed up a now-vacant security tower installed in the hyper security days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and got a good view of the ongoing demolition and clean up of the 130-acre site.

In all, the demolition is expected to take at least six years, and possibly longer, and cost upwards of $500 million.

By comparison, Entergy Nuclear, which had owned Vermont Yankee since 2002, had estimated it would cost more than double that amount – $1.2 billion – and that included waiting 50 years or so to let the plant’s trust fund grow, and allow radioactivity to decay.

While nothing was under active demolition like the cooling tower project, which was completed in July, workers were busy moving large concrete and steel casks that would hold cut-up components of the plant’s reactor core – some of the most radioactive material, aside from the plant’s fuel.

The vast majority of the demolition will be shipped off site by rail. NorthStar rebuilt the rail line that served Vermont Yankee back when it was constructed in the 1960s and 1970s, to carry heavy loads. The radioactive materials are labeled and put into either special shielded boxes and filled with concrete, or inserted into heavy-duty canisters for the trip to western Texas.

According to Daniels, shipping by rail is much more efficient and much cheaper than trucking.

On Thursday, workers were preparing one of the 17 large boxes that would hold the pieces of the reactor vessel internals.

WHERE WILL THE WASTE GO?

At Yankee, it’s all about nuclear waste and where it will go.

The transfer of the nuclear fuel from the plant’s spent fuel pool into concrete and steel canisters was completed a year ago, shortly before NorthStar bought Vermont Yankee from Entergy Nuclear Corp., said State.

There are 58 of the giant canisters on the north end of the Yankee site, behind barbed wire and barricades – and guards. It will remain there for years, until the federal government acts to create either permanent storage for the dangerous, highly radioactive fuel (hence the security), or an interim storage site.

State said Waste Control Specialists, which he described as a partner of NorthStar’s, runs a low-level radioactive waste site in western Texas and has proposed building an interim storage site, a plan that is pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Holtec International, a competitor of Waste Control Specialists and the builder of the storage casks being used at Yankee, has a competing application for a nearby site in southeastern New Mexico.

State, who lives in Arizona during the winter, makes a point of coming to Vermont Yankee at least once a month to check on progress.

He said he expects the NRC to make a decision on the proposed consolidated, interim storage in about three years, and he said because the WCS site is owned by a NorthStar affiliate, Yankee’s high-level radioactive waste could be shipped quickly, rather than following a federal requirement of oldest-waste first.

NorthStar is hoping that the Vermont Yankee project brings it other nuclear demolition projects, as by State’s calculation there will be another 10 nuclear reactors shutting down in the next five years. NorthStar recently signed an agreement to demolish Duke Energy’s Crystal River reactor in Florida. That project is awaiting NRC approval, he said.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311, ext. 154.

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.

Help protect your community from radioactive waste risks!

(Reference: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NRC-2017-0081-0014)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) wants to change the rules by reclassifying several categories of extremely dangerous radioactive waste so it go into shallow burial, instead of deep underground as currently required for important safety reasons. This bad scheme risks radioactive contamination of our air, soil and water and must be halted immediately.

Send a letter now! Comment deadline is currently Sept. 20, 2019.

Send comments to: Rulemaking.Comments@nrc.gov
cc: Cardelia.Maupin@nrc.gov
Timothy.McCartin@nrc.gov


RE: NRC Docket ID: NRC-2017-0081

Dear NRC Commissioners,

Please halt the proposal to reclassify waste would create risks to our health, safety, the environment and the Texas economy. Reclassifying is a disastrous plan that would allow very hot Greater-Than-Class C and TRU waste to go into shallow burial pits instead of deep underground in a geologic repository, the less risky approach currently required for safety reasons.

This proposal would set in motion the plan to send the nation’s entire inventory of this waste stream to Texas. The amount of waste analyzed in the Generic Environmental Impact Statement was 420,000 pounds and 161 million curies. This massive amount of curies is more than 28 times the full licensed capacity of WCS’ huge federal waste pit and 41 times the full capacity of the adjacent Compact Waste pit.

This would be a huge increase in very hot material including irradiated metal from inside nuclear reactor cores. Shallow burial at the WCS site would be close to the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer, the Ogallala, at a site prone to temperature extremes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires and tornadoes.

Some of the radioactive materials, especially Technetium-99, can volatilize. Winds could spread radioactive contaminants into the air, soil and water, leading to disaster. If containers leak due to cracks or fissures various water bodies could be impacted, as TCEQ Radioactive Materials Division staff warned against when they recommended denial of the license for WCS’ low-level waste site. The bottom of the shallow burial for GTCC waste would be only 120′ deep, not 2000 feet or more, as it should be. According to WCS’ Environmental Assessment, 100,000 pound containers would be stacked up to seven units deep, putting them close to the surface, where radioactive materials could volatilize even more readily. Human inhalation would become a risk.

Shallow burial of highly radioactive materials in a region prone to earthquakes fails to meet the common sense test. One earthquake had its epicenter just 5 miles away from the site in Eunice, New Mexico. The Permian Basin is the nation’s largest oil producing region. What would happen if such a major oil supply became contaminated?

Transport of this massive poisonous waste stream through our communities for the unjustified purpose of shallow burial should be prevented. At least 33,700 truck shipments or 11,800 rail shipments of highly radioactive waste would occur, but the public can’t comment effectively since routes have not been set.

Please halt the changes that would reclassify GTCC and TRU radioactive waste immediately and ensure that it will only go into a deep geologic repository as federal law now requires. This law was designed to protect living things by isolating these dangerous materials deep underground. It is essential that current law remains in place in order to protect our health and safety, all living things and our economy.

Furthermore, please extend the comment period 90 days to allow for full analysis of the complicated technical and practical implications of the potential rule change and so that more people will have the opportunity to comment effectively.

An amendment about waste facility fees was added to a widely supported domestic violence bill. Will it stick?

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s office said Saturday that she “is still evaluating all options available to save SB 1804.”

BY SHANNON NAJMABADI
The Texas Tribune

MAY 25, 2019

The bill by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, which sailed through the House and Senate with no opposing votes, requires that bond information about domestic violence offenders be entered into a statewide data repository. Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Texas Legislature 2019

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

A widely supported bill to protect domestic violence survivors may have hit an unexpected roadblock after the House approved a last-minute amendment that would delay a scheduled increase to the fees a radioactive waste facility in West Texas must pay.

The measure, Senate Bill 1804 by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, could now be headed to a conference committee where lawmakers from both chambers will negotiate its final language and decide if the waste-related amendment will stay. Kolkhorst could also accept the change. Her office said Saturday, "With only hours left available to review the amendments to her bill, Senator Kolkhorst is still evaluating all options available to save SB 1804."

The author of the amendment, state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, told The Texas Tribune the bill would pass and that he would strip his amendment if necessary.

Kolkhorst’s bill, which sailed through the House and Senate with no opposing votes, requires that bond information about domestic violence offenders be entered into a statewide data repository.

A dearth of centralized data has made it difficult to verify and enforce the conditions of bond, the analysis argues, and leaves "survivors, law enforcement, and the community" at risk and the offender without accountability. The bill would also require that survivors be notified if an offender is released on bond, the analysis says.

Moments before the House gave the bill final approval Wednesday, Nevárez — who sponsored the measure along with state Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring — added the amendment.

The amendment, he told other state representatives, "offers some economic competitive incentives in the bill" and was "acceptable to the author." The House approved it with a voice vote.

But the amendment has little to do with the bill itself — which Nevárez acknowledges. "It has absolutely nothing to do with domestic violence, and there is no quibbling about that," he said.

Instead, the amendment appears to delay an increase to a surcharge and state fee paid by the private operator of a waste disposal facility. It bears similarities to bills filed by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf and state Sen. Kel Seliger, Republicans from Odessa and Amarillo, respectively, whose bills appear destined to die with only two days left in the legislative session. The amendment "keeps the status quo," Nevárez said; without it, the fee and surcharge paid by the operator would likely increase this year.

Thomas Graham, a spokesperson for the company that runs the disposal facility, Waste Control Specialists, said the amendment "simply continues current law."

"We’re talking about waste that comes from health care facilities, industrial facilities, the oil and gas industry, and from all parts of the state," he said, citing a state report that recommended lowering the surcharges. "So making sure that the facility remains viable and operational is critical to the state’s economy."

Nevárez said the amendment helps an industry that is a big job creator. But he disputed the idea that there was "something shady" about how he was trying to pass it.

"I did this out in the open — I did it on the House floor. I told them the amendment’s about economic competitiveness, and everyone at their desk can read their amendment. Anyone could have gotten up and asked me a question. Nobody wanted to. I can only assume they’re uninterested in it or they’re fine with it," he said. "There’s nothing untoward about putting an amendment on a bill that has nothing to do with one thing or another at this time of session — everyone’s looking for a ride."

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.