• July 8, 2020

West Texans protest high-level nuclear waste proposal - Odessa American: News

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West Texans protest high-level nuclear waste proposal

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Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2019 5:31 pm

Concerned residents from across the Permian Basin gathered in Midland Tuesday morning to protest an impending proposal by Waste Control Specialists to store 40,000 tons of nuclear reactor waste in Andrews.

Judges on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel will be considering WCS’ proposal to store the waste for 40 years at a hearing at the Midland County Courthouse at 9 a.m. today and Thursday. This nuclear waste would be coming from across the country, leading to tens of thousands of shipments of nuclear waste coming through Texas and the Permian Basin.

David Rosen is a Midland resident and the owner of a small oil business, who said he first heard about WCS’ intent a little over a year ago. He said there have been cases of other nuclear spill accidents where it’s taken up to 70 years to clean up, which could be bad for the Permian Basin, one of the leading oil producers in the world.

“The Permian Basin is the lifeblood of the oil industry...and so we’re very concerned about a spill,” Rosen said.

From reading WCS’ investigation, Rosen said it’s estimated there might be a spill in one out of every 10,000 transportation loads of radioactive waste.

“For 40,000 tons to come here, it would take thousands of rail cars, and so we think there’s gonna be an accident sometime, we don’t know when,” Rosen said. “We pray that there never is, but we’re very concerned there might be.”

Rosen said there needs to be a national repository installed to store this high-level waste, which hasn’t been established yet, but federal law states the waste should not be moved from where it is generated until it is put in place.

“We ought to keep it where it is until we have a permanent resting place for it,” Rosen said. “The more it’s transported, the more dangerous it becomes.”

Terry Lodge, an attorney for the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, said WCS has a controversial track record and a “unique and disturbing” hold on Texas politics.

“You don’t get to apply for something you can’t apply for, unless of course you’re a large, politically connected organization, I guess,” Lodge said. “You only get to do what the law allows the day you apply. And unfortunately, by changing the rules week by week, month by month, as to what’s acceptable, the NRC has destroyed its credibility as a regulator.”

Precinct 4 Midland County Commissioner Randy Prude was not in attendance, but a statement of his was read in opposition to the proposal.

“It’s only a matter of time before an accident or an act of terrorism breaks one or more of the canisters and makes West Texas another Chernobyl,” Prude wrote. “Each of those canisters would be about a Chernobyl equivalent. The world’s premiere oilfield and America’s energy independence are at stake.”

Elizabeth Padilla, a long-time Andrews resident and a mother of young children, also spoke in opposition of the proposal. She cited previous statements made by WCS officials in 1993, when they said the site would not be a low-level or high-level radioactive waste repository, and they already are storing low-level radioactive waste.

“The people of Andrews do not want this,” Padilla said. “They do not want this in their backyards. We do not want this in our children’s backyards.”

WCS Spokesperson Karen Johnson said in a statement that the NRC licensing processing for the consolidated interim storage of used nuclear fuel was a very lengthy and thorough process.

“The storage and the transportation technologies used for the proposed CISF are proven, tested systems and processes currently used safely across the U.S. today in 34 states,” Johnson wrote in an email. “Presenting the facts is a responsibility we take very seriously and we hold great respect for the NRC processes and procedures.”

In an information sheet sent out by Interim Storage Partners, the joint venture between WCS and Orano USA, a nuclear fuel cycle company, it states no liquid or gaseous radioactive wastes are being licensed for storage at the site, and said the canisters containing the dry fuel cannot explode or even catch fire, calling the dry nuclear fuel “very stable” and not comparable to Chernobyl or nuclear weapons.

Odessa, TX

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