City considering opposing nuclear waste transport

March 9, 2017

By Brendan Gibbons STAFF WRITER
San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio City Council members are considering whether to get involved legally in an application to begin accepting highly radioactive nuclear waste at a privately operated site in West Texas.

A request filed by District 8 councilman and mayoral candidate Ron Nirenberg expresses opposition to having thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel pass through San Antonio via freight rail. Bexar County commissioners passed a similar resolution in February.

“It would be nonsensical to put the waste inventory … through one of the largest metro communities in the country,” Nirenberg said.

Unlike the county’s resolution, Nirenberg’s request asks city staff to “explore the opportunity to intervene” in an application by Waste Control Specialists to store spent nuclear fuel. An intervenor is an outside entity that joins a proceeding with the permission of a judge.

WCS officials have said they eventually hope to accept up to 40,000 tons over 40 years, which would require shipping 3,000 canisters of waste.

The spent nuclear fuel left over from the process of generating electricity is now being stored at 62 active or closed nuclear power plants across the U.S. The independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the WCS application to store a portion of this waste at a site near Andrews.

In a February interview, NRC spokesman Dave McIntyre said intervenors need to prove legal standing and provide at least one “admissible contention,” a legitimate argument that WCS’ application would not adequately protect public health and safety.

The resolution seems to have the support of most council members. Several said they want to at least have a public discussion over the proposal and whether it makes sense for the city to intervene.

In a statement Thursday, Mayor Ivy Taylor said she supports the resolution going before the council’s Governance Committee.

“I also believe that city staff should at least have a seat at the table during the NRC licensing process to ensure their decisions do not negatively impact our community’s health and safety,” she said.

The deadline for intervening before the NRC is March 31. bgibbons(at) Twitter: @bgibbs