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A private company got federal approval to store nuclear waste in Texas. The state is fighting back.

September 15, 2001

Douglas MacMillan and Aaron Gregg
Washington Post

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the planned facility opens a new front in a decades-long battle to find a home for the country’s nuclear waste

A private company has won federal approval to build an expansive nuclear waste site in Texas, even as residents, state lawmakers, environmentalists and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) rail against it.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Monday issued a license for Andrews, Tex.-based Interim Storage Partners to store as much as 5,000 metric tons of radioactive waste. It’s one of two proposed storage sites — the other is in southeastern New Mexico — that has been under agency review for several years.

The approval opens a new front in a decades-long battle to find a home for 85,000 tons of nuclear waste accumulating at dozens of nuclear power plants across the country. Fears about the dangers of nuclear material, which scientists say remains hazardous to humans for many years, have stifled plans to build repositories, including a proposed waste dump in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain that was shelved by President Barack Obama.

Such concerns are fueling the opposition in Texas, where environmental activists have forged a rare alliance with oil interests and powerful state Republicans to prevent the site from moving forward. They worry that transporting and storing “high-level” nuclear waste, including contaminated fuel rods, exposes the state to the threat of a radiological incident or potential for groundwater contamination.

“Our concern is that the waste will sit there, the cement around it will crack, leaks will develop, and radioactive contamination will result,” said Karen Hadden, the executive director of the SEED Coalition, an Austin-based advocacy group.

In a direct challenge to federal regulators, Abbott signed legislation last week preventing federally approved waste facilities from obtaining local construction and wastewater permits. The governor has framed the license as an unwelcome incursion by the Biden administration, which he accused of “trying to dump highly radioactive nuclear waste” in Texas oil fields.

Read more at Washington Post site

Nuclear waste in the oil patch? Feds spark clash with Texas

09/15/2021

By Edward Klump
E&E News/EnergyWire

A site in West Texas now has a federal license to store spent nuclear fuel, setting up a potential showdown with state leaders who oppose the prospect of attracting high-level radioactive waste from across the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the license for Interim Storage Partners LLC to build and operate an interim storage facility in Andrews County, Texas, on Monday — just days after Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill seeking to restrict nuclear waste storage in the state.
Yesterday, Abbott tried to use the new license in the Permian Basin oil patch to hammer President Biden, though an application for the site was filed in 2016, and the Trump administration didn’t kill the project.

“The Biden Admin. is trying to dump highly radioactive nuclear waste in west Texas oil fields,” Abbott said on Twitter. “I just signed a law to stop it. Texas will not become America’s nuclear waste dumping ground.”

David McIntyre, an NRC spokesperson, declined to comment on the governor’s criticism but said in a statement this week that the “licensing decision was made according to the applicable federal statutes and regulations after thorough, multi-year technical and environmental reviews.”
The drama is being watched by the electricity sector, as nuclear power plants continue to store spent fuel on-site without a permanent U.S. repository. Yucca Mountain in Nevada has failed to garner enough sustained support to be an option (E&E Daily, July 22). In the meantime, backers of the Interim Storage Partners, or ISP, site in West Texas and a separate project in eastern New Mexico from Holtec International have pursued interim storage proposals that could last for decades.

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Debate over radioactive waste storage in West Texas revived by Greg Abbott’s special session agenda

Aug 24, 2021

By Emily Caldwell
Dallas Morning News

Much of the high-level nuclear waste from around the country that would be headed for a proposed facility in Andrews County could be transported through North Texas.

WASHINGTON — The debate over plans for a new facility in West Texas that would store spent nuclear fuel from around the country has been rekindled after Gov. Greg Abbott included efforts to limit high-level radioactive waste in the state on his special session agenda.

Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, represents Andrews County, where a company called Interim Storage Solutions has applied to build a facility to store spent nuclear fuel, which qualifies as high-level waste, until the federal government can establish an ultimate long-term site — though it’s unclear when that would be, and could take years.

With heavily used interstate highways and railways running through the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including the Interstate 20 corridor, environmental groups have warned for years that high-level waste could flow through D-FW on the way to Andrews County if the facility is approved.

Read more at the Dallas Morning News website

State lawmakers again try to ban most dangerous nuclear waste as feds consider allowing it at West Texas site

August 23, 2021

Texas Tribune

A failed regular session bill sought to give a financial break to a West Texas nuclear waste disposal company. Now, lawmakers have removed what opponents called a giveaway and are again trying to pass a bill to stop highly radioactive materials from coming to Texas.

Andrews Waste site
The entrance to the Waste Control Specialists site where low-level radioactive and hazardous waste is being stored. The company is seeking a federal license to store the highest level of nuclear waste, but lawmakers are trying to ban that. Credit: Eli Hartman for The Texas Tribune

After failing this spring, Texas lawmakers are again trying to ban the most dangerous type of radioactive waste from entering the state — at the same time as a nuclear waste disposal company in West Texas pursues a federal application to store the highly radioactive materials.

Environmental and consumer advocates for years have decried a proposal to build a 332-acre site in West Texas near the New Mexico border to store the riskiest type of nuclear waste: spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants, which can remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Strong political interests in Texas, from Gov. Greg Abbott to some oil and gas companies operating in the Permian Basin, have opposed the company’s application.

But a bill that sought to ban the highly radioactive material failed during the regular legislative session that ended in May. That bill, filed by State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, whose district includes Andrews County where the existing nuclear waste company Waste Control Specialists operates, included a big break on fees for the company. Some lawmakers also thought the previous bill’s language wasn’t strong enough to actually ban the materials.

Read more at the Texas Tribune website

NRC expected to release reports for Andrews site this month

July 27, 2021

Caitlin Randle,
MRT.com/Midland Reporter-Telegram

Andrews County waste dump site

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to release a Safety Analysis and final version of the Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed nuclear waste site in Andrews County by the end of this month, according to activism group Beyond Nuclear.

Kevin Kamps with Beyond Nuclear told the Reporter-Telegram the NRC has told the group those reports will be released in July. After those reports are made public, the NRC will decide whether to approve Waste Control Specialists’ application to store high-level nuclear waste.

Kamps said the NRC will likely make a decision on that application in mid-September.

“Somewhere in there, hopefully sooner rather than later, our side will get its day in federal court on all our appeals,” he said in an email.

Beyond Nuclear, SEED Coalition, Sierra Club, Fasken Oil and a coalition of oil royalty owners have filed suit against the NRC in the hopes of preventing the Andrews site and other proposed sites; appeals of those cases are in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit, according to Kamps.

Numerous local leaders have spoken out against the proposed Andrews site, including representatives from Fasken Oil and Ranch and the Midland County Commissioners’ Court. Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. August Pfluger have also vocalized opposition to storing high-level waste in Andrews.

Andrews County Commissioners came out against the project as well, voting on July 15 to sign a resolution stating their opposition to the storage of high-level nuclear waste in the county. The commissioners faced pressure from residents during two packed Commissioners’ Court meetings.

Andrews County Judge Charlie Falcon noted during the July 15 meeting that the resolution would not necessarily affect the NRC’s decision.

WCS, in partnership with Interim Storage Partners, filed an application in 2016 to store high-level nuclear waste in Andrews County for 40 years before the waste would be moved to a permanent repository.

The NRC released a draft Environmental Impact Statement in May of 2020 regarding the application to open a high-level waste site. In that report, NRC staff recommended approval of the application, stating that the impact of constructing and operating a waste site at the proposed location was found to be minimal.

Caitlin Randle is a general news reporter for the Midland Reporter-Telegram.