Thursday, March 6, 2008

Low-Level Nuclear Waste Dump Proposed for West Texas

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) is requesting a license from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to build a low-level radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, on the New Mexico border about 130 miles northwest of Midland. WCS, owned by Harold Simmons, wants two licenses to store low-level radioactive material at a 1,300-acre former ranch. Andrews County, which has a population of about 15,000, and the state would each get 5 percent of the gross receipts from the dump operations. A uranium enrichment plant is currently being constructed in New Mexico just across the border from the WCS site.

In October 2007, TCEQ officials issued a draft license that, if made final, would allow WCS to dispose of radioactive waste byproducts, which includes leftover equipment and residue from uranium mining and processing. A draft license triggers a public comment and hearing period that lasts about one year, with a three-member commission deciding whether to issue the license or not. WCS has spent more than four years and tens of millions of dollars seeking to develop the nation's largest private disposal site for low-level radioactive waste. The TCEQ licenses it seeks would allow it to store radioactive materials from Texas and Vermont nuclear power plants (although not the highly radioactive fuel rods), medical and industrial facilities and some federal weapons programs. Public opposition has killed plans to develop publicly run radioactive waste dumps. Byproducts material is less toxic than low-level radioactive waste. (Houston Chronicle)

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