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Texas bans storage of highly radioactive waste, but a West Texas facility may get a license from the feds anyway

The new law may soon be in conflict with federal regulators. A decision from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on one company’s license could come as early as Monday.

BY ERIN DOUGLAS  TEXAS TRIBUNE,  SEPT. 10, 2021  Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday night signed a bill into law that attempts to block a plan to store highly radioactive nuclear waste at a site in West Texas.

House Bill 7 effectively bans highly radioactive materials from coming to Texas, targeting one company’s plan to build such a facility near the New Mexico border in Andrews County.

But, the new state law may soon be in conflict with federal regulators. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is advancing the company’s application for a license to allow the high-level nuclear waste to Texas, and a decision from the federal agency could come as early as Monday, a spokesperson with the commission said.

For years, environmental and consumer advocates have protested a proposal by a West Texas company, Waste Control Specialists, to build with a partner an interim storage site for high-level nuclear waste, which is mostly spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. Waste Control Specialists has been disposing of the nation’s low-level nuclear waste, including tools, building materials and protective clothing exposed to radioactivity, for a decade in Andrews County.

Scientists agree that spent nuclear fuel, which is currently kept on-site at nuclear power plants, should be stored deep underground, but the U.S. still hasn’t located a suitable site. The plan by the WCS joint venture, Interim Storage Partners, proposes storing it in above-ground casks until a permanent location is found. Spent nuclear fuel can remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years.

The joint venture, Interim Storage Partners, applied to the NRC for a license to store spent nuclear fuel — the most dangerous type of nuclear waste — on a site adjacent to that existing facility until a permanent underground repository is built. No such facility currently exists in the U.S…………

The legislation includes a ban on disposing of high-level radioactive waste in Texas other than former nuclear power reactors and former nuclear research and test reactors on university campuses (nuclear power plants must keep the waste generated from operations on-site until a long-term disposal site is created). The law will also bar state agencies from issuing construction, stormwater or pollution permits for facilities that are licensed to store high-level radioactive waste.

Environmental groups applauded the state law: “We hope [the law] sends a clear message to the feds: We don’t want it,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, in a statement.

Karen Hadden, director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition, an alliance of businesses and organizations that has long opposed the nuclear waste facility, said in a statement that the law will “prevent unnecessary transportation risks nationwide.”

Landgraf said in a statement that the state law should halt the construction of a site to store high-level nuclear waste because the law now bars the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from issuing the state permits that would be necessary to construct such a facility. He said the law protects Texas from “becoming the storage site for the entire country’s high-level radioactive waste.”

September 11, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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