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Texas to fight on against dumping of spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County

In a statement before the NRC’s announcement this week, Hadden said opponents would “keep fighting” even if the new license were issued. She said legal challenges remain, and she expressed hope that Texas’ attorney general would fight to protect people. A county commissioners’ body in Andrews County, Texas, also backed a resolution against high-level nuclear waste storage this year, local CBS affiliate KOSA reported

Nuclear waste in the oil patch? Feds spark clash with Texas  E and E News, By Edward Klump | 09/15/2021 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.

The NRC said this is the second license it has issued for a consolidated storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. The first was in 2006 for a different facility that wasn’t built. A decision on Holtec’s application for a site in Lea County, N.M., is expected in January, according to the nuclear safety regulator. Opposition to Holtec’s plan has been bubbling up in New Mexico, as well.

It remains to be seen how the West Texas proposal will proceed from here. ISP could directly challenge Texas’ stance, or it could take a more conciliatory, wait-and-see approach before seeking to move ahead.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in response to a question from E&E News yesterday, said its “role is to NOT issue authorizations under TCEQ purview as directed in the bill language” if permits are requested for a high-level radioactive waste facility in the state such as the ISP site.

In a statement yesterday, ISP noted that the “proposed facility would be located adjacent to Waste Control Specialists’ existing low-level nuclear materials disposal facility in Andrews County, Texas.” ISP is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano USA, along with some support from a technology provider called NAC International. A revised license application was submitted in 2018.

ISP said the federal authorization was based on a through, multiyear review. The venture didn’t indicate its next move or provide responses to questions posed by E&E News.

“The extensive analyses concluded that this facility’s commercial interim storage and transport operations satisfy all environmental, health, and safety requirements without negative impact to nearby residents or existing industries,” ISP said in its statement.

Critics have noted safety worries for people who live in West Texas, as well as concerns about transporting nuclear waste across the country.

“There were no surprises in NRC’s announcement, by Twitter, about approving the license for deadly nuclear waste storage in Texas,” Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition, said in a statement to E&E News. “There was no acknowledgement of the overwhelming opposition throughout Texas. Just the federal government steamrolling our state to benefit a private company.”

‘Really interesting times’

In a statement before the NRC’s announcement this week, Hadden said opponents would “keep fighting” even if the new license were issued. She said legal challenges remain, and she expressed hope that Texas’ attorney general would fight to protect people. A county commissioners’ body in Andrews County, Texas, also backed a resolution against high-level nuclear waste storage this year, local CBS affiliate KOSA reported……….  https://www.eenews.net/articles/nuclear-waste-in-the-oil-patch-feds-spark-clash-with-texas/

September 16, 2021 - Posted by | opposition to nuclear, politics, wastes

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