Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

Statements on Radioactive Waste risks and NRC docketing the WCS application

January 26, 2017

The NRC announced today that they’ve docketed the application from Waste Control Specialists for a consolidated radioactive waste storage in Andrews, TX. The NRC will accept public comments on the scope of its Environmental Impact Statement for the application through March 13th.

SEED Coalition and Public Citizen will hold organizing meetings to help citizens prepare for the upcoming Feb. 13th and Feb. 15th NRC hearings to be held in Hobbs, New Mexico and Andrews, TX. Details are being finalized. An additional NRC hearing will be held the following week in Rockville, MD.

Karen Hadden, Director, Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition 512-797-8481,

"WCS" plan to import the most dangerous of all radioactive waste and dump it on poor communities on the Texas/New Mexico border represents environmental injustice and poses risks of accidents and terrorism and potential contamination along the transport routes throughout the country. The WCS location is close to the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation’s largest aquifer, that lies beneath eight states. A single train car load with dry casks of radioactive waste would contain as much plutonium as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The waste should remain secured in place until a scientfically viable isolation system for permanent disposal can be designed and built.

The Department of Energy (DOE) failed to come to Texas in 2016, but held nine meetings elsewhere around the country but failed to come to Texas or New Mexico – ground zero of where they want to dump high-level radioactive waste. Hundreds of people would likely turn out to oppose this dangerous plan if hearings were held in a major Texas city, but now NRC plans to only host meetings in small communities that stand to benefit economically, as well as have huge health and safety risks. The two agencies are trying to manufacture consent, but we do not consent to being dumped on."

Tom "Smitty" Smith, Public Citizen, 512-797-8468,

"This plan is all risk, not only for the states of Texas and New Mexico, but for the whole country and it should be halted immediately," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. "Why is our region being targeted to become the nation’s dumping ground for high-risk high-level radioactive waste? Putting this waste on our highways and railways invites disaster. Radioactive waste moving through highly populated cities across the country could be targeted for sabotage by terrorists." A state report, the Assessment of Texas’ High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Options, says that "spent nuclear fuel is more vulnerable to sabotage or accidents during transport than in storage because there are fewer security guards and engineered barriers, and that the consequences could be higher since the waste could travel through large cities."

NRC to Review WCS Application, Announces Hearing Opportunity And Meetings on Scope of Environmental Review?

Nuclear Regulatory Commission – Press Release
No: 17-004 January 26, 2017
Contact: Maureen Conley, 301-415-8200

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has docketed and accepted for formal review an application from Waste Control Specialists to build and operate a spent nuclear fuel consolidated interim storage facility in Andrews, Texas. The NRC’s decision follows an acceptance review to determine whether the application contains sufficient information for the agency to begin its formal review.

WCS is seeking to store 5,000 metric tons uranium of spent fuel received from commercial nuclear power reactors across the United States.

The agency’s review will proceed on two parallel tracks – one on safety issues, the other on environmental issues. Both the safety and environmental reviews must be completed before the NRC makes a final licensing decision on the application.

The NRC’s Jan. 26 letter to WCS sets a schedule for its safety and environmental reviews, with a target of making a licensing decision by the third quarter of fiscal year 2019, assuming WCS provides high-quality responses, on schedule, to any NRC requests for additional information. The public will have 60 days from publication of a notice of docketing in the Federal Register, which will appear shortly, to submit requests for a hearing and petition to intervene in the licensing proceeding for the proposed facility. Details on how to submit those requests and petitions will be in the Federal Register notice.

The NRC will accept public comments on the scope of its Environmental Impact Statement through March 13. Details on how to submit those comments will be published shortly in the Federal Register and can be found below.

The NRC will hold two public meetings near the site of the proposed facility to take public comments on the scope of the environmental review. The meetings will be held

  • 7-10 p.m. Mountain Time, Feb. 13, at the Lea County Event Center, 5101 N. Lovington Highway, in Hobbs, N.M.
  • 7-10 p.m. Central Time, Feb. 15, at the James Roberts Center, 855 TX-176, in Andrews, Texas.

Anyone interested in attending or speaking is encouraged to pre-register by calling 301-415-6957 no later than three days prior to the meeting. The public may also register in person at each meeting. The time allowed for each speaker may be limited, depending on the number of registered speakers.

The NRC is also planning to hold additional scoping meetings at agency headquarters in Rockville, Md., during the week following the local meetings. Details are being finalized. Anyone interested in attending should check the NRC public meeting schedule for the dates and times.

Written comments on the EIS scope should refer to Docket ID NRC-2016-0231. Comments will be made publicly available and should not include identifying or personal information you do not wish to be disclosed. Comments can be filed via the federal rulemaking website; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN-12 H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

What Could Go Wrong?

Deadly High-Level Radioactive Waste: Health and Safety Concerns About Storage and Disposal

April 30, 2014
For Immediate Release

Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, 512-797-8481
Tom "Smitty" Smith, Public Citizen 512-477-1155

Download press release in pdf format for printing

Austin, TX – A nuclear expert, a medical doctor, and an attorney joined public interest advocates to address the health and safety risks of bringing the hottest of nuclear reactor waste, the spent nuclear fuel rods, to Waste Control Specialists’ (WCS) dump in Andrews County, Texas or another Texas site. The legal issues involved were discussed as well.

Governor Perry and Speaker Straus are pushing consideration of importing dangerous radioactive waste for storage and possibly disposal in Texas, and the House Environmental Regulation Committee will hold a hearing on the issue in the near future.

The Interim Committee charge is to "study the rules, laws, and regulations pertaining to the disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas and determine the potential economic impact of permitting a facility in Texas," said Rep. Lon Burnam, of District 90, Ft. Worth. "Examining the risks of importing exceedingly dangerous high-level radioactive waste into Texas seems to have been left out, but is very important for protecting our health and safety."

"High level radioactive waste can be a major threat to health and well-being. Obviously the effects are dependent on the quantity, the strength of the radioactivity, and the length of exposure that occurs. As with many health threats, growing children and babies in the womb are particularly at risk and vulnerable," said Dr. Elliot Trester, of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. The effects of radioactivity can be immediate and have long term consequences as well. The fact that the nuclear components of spent fuel rods can last for centuries and still be lethal is particularly disturbing."

According to a new report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, an unshielded person a meter away from high-level radioactive waste would receive a lethal dose and die within a week and the waste Legislators are considering bringing to Texas for is four times hotter than this in terms of radioactivity.

"Used nuclear fuel rods contain plutonium and uranium isotopes, many of which have long-half lives and remain dangerous for thousands of years or longer," said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Reprocessing of this waste is expensive and not a viable solution. In general, the best approach for now is to move as much spent fuel as possible out of spent fuel pools and store it in dry casks on site. Moving spent fuel needlessly increases risks."

"Science, not politics, must come first. Extensive research is needed and the right combination of geologic setting, engineered barriers, and repository sealing and closure systems is crucial for long-term disposal and should be done before site selection starts. The standard setting process for the failed Yucca Mountain repository was poor. When the site didn’t meet the proposed standard, a new standard was mandated, instead of a new site. Public health protection standards should be set before site selection begins," said Makhijani. An independent institution, apart from the Department of Energy, is needed if effective oversight is to be achieved.

"The nuclear industry and its numerous political and government apologists refused to listen to common sense for decades and continued to generate spent nuclear reactor fuel as though we had disposal all figured out. True to history, the industry targets areas for dumps that lack political clout, like West Texas, the next proposed nuclear sacrifice zone," said attorney Robert Eye.

For decades it was believed that much commercial nuclear power waste would be reprocessed and that a disposal site would become available for high-level radioactive waste. A long, expensive series of failures showed these assumptions to be false. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 and amendment in 1987 made the federal government the regulator of spent nuclear fuel, with a repository to be developed by the DOE and licensed by the NRC.

Federal and private efforts to construct an interim storage site failed and Nevada fought efforts to make Yucca Mountain the nation’s geologic repository. Faulty science, and legal and political battles led to DOE spending nearly $15 billion on the site, which hasn’t been constructed. Funding was halted in 2011.

The US Government disposes of high-level radioactive waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, New Mexico. The site had recently been considered as a possible location for high-level commercial waste, but it has closed following both an underground fire and an airborne release of plutonium. The site’s future is un\certain.

The NRC’s Waste Confidence Rule arose from their decision not to "continue to license reactors if it did not have reasonable confidence that the wastes can and will in due course be disposed of safely," said Bob Eye. "This rule is used in reviewing new reactor licenses and license renewals. The timeframe for getting disposal capacity in place is slipping dramatically. Several states and environmental groups petitioned for review of the rule. The NRC halted licensing decisions until they complete a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) and revise federal code, which is scheduled for completion by September 2014." The rule change would allow spent nuclear fuel to be stored for 60 years after reactor shutdown.

Obama’s Blue Ribbon Commission said that a pilot interim storage facility could be in place by 2021, a larger storage facility by 2025, and a geologic repository by 2048. The Government Accountability Office says that several decades would be needed to transport of the spent nuclear fuel to a geologic repository and they anticipate that most US reactors closing by 2040.

"We don’t need or want this deadly, dangerous waste which every other state has rejected, or the risks it poses to our health and safety," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. "The Blue Ribbon Commission said that high-level waste storage or disposal isn’t likely to happen without state and local support. Unfortunately, Governor Perry and some Texas Legislators actually think dumping this waste on Texans is a good idea. Our fear is that the Legislature will pass resolutions asking Congress to designate our state for the unnecessary storage or disposal of spent nuclear fuel. We will fight this horrible idea."

"We don’t need our rivers and land poisoned by some of the deadliest contaminants on Earth. We don’t need children threatened by radiation poisoning, from leaks or transportation accidents. It’s time to stop producing these deadly materials and to prevent their importation," said Karen Hadden, director of the SEED Coalition. "We should reduce threats from crowding in existing spent fuel pools, where critical reactions can occur and lead to nuclear meltdowns, by moving spent fuel into dry casks and storing it onsite."

For more information:

Bad Decision on Foreign Ownership Case Against South Texas Project Nuclear Reactors Protects Toshiba, Not Citizens

April 15, 2014

Press Release

Contacts: Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, 512-797-8481
Brett Jarmer and Robert V. Eye, Attorneys, 785-234-4040

NRC Staff Agreed with License Opponents on this Legal Contention

Austin, Texas The Nuclear Regulatory Commission"s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has ruled that even though Japanese owned Toshiba is funding 100% of pre-license activities for two proposed South Texas Project reactors, the license applicant (Nuclear Innovation North America or NINA) is not subject to foreign control or domination prohibitions of the Atomic Energy Act.

"The judges" decision turns the federal law that prohibits foreign control and domination of nuclear projects on its head. The only source of money for this project is from a Japanese corporation. That is the essence of control and domination," said Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition, a group that has led intervention in the licensing process, along with South Texas Association for Responsible Energy and Public Citizen. "NRC staff agrees with us that the extensive financial involvement of Toshiba violates existing foreign control laws. Maybe foreign corporate investments now count more than the law."

"Federal law is clear that foreign controlled corporations are not eligible to apply for a license to build and operate nuclear power plants. The evidence showed that Toshiba is in financial control of the project and this should preclude obtaining an NRC license for South Texas Project 3 & 4," said Brett Jarmer, an attorney also representing the intervenors.

"Foreign investment in U.S nuclear projects is not per se prohibited; but Toshiba is paying all the bills for the STP 3 & 4 project. This has made it difficult to accept that Toshiba doesn"t control the project," said Robert Eye, an attorney for the intervenors.

Susan Dancer, President of the South Texas Association for Responsible Energy said "NINA wants us to believe that receiving 100% funding for pre-license activities does not make them subject to Toshiba"s control. The recent Fukushima disaster has demonstrated the flawed Japanese model of nuclear safety and lack of protection afforded the Japanese people. In such an inherently dangerous industry, the American people deserve protection through enforcement of existing federal law, including that our nuclear reactors are controlled by the people most concerned about our country: fellow Americans."

"Business interests are being favored despite the fact that existing law couldn"t be more clear. The Atomic Energy Act says that no license may be issued… (if) it is owned, controlled, or dominated by an alien, a foreign corporation, or a foreign government," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen"s Texas Office. The problem that STP 3 & 4 have is that U.S. investors are not interested in putting money into nuclear power projects. NINA sought foreign money because U.S. investors recognize the future is in renewable fuels like wind and solar not dangerous and toxic nuclear power."

For further information please visit


Read the Partial Initial Decision

Bad Radioactive Waste Bill Increases Threats to Texas While Rewarding a Major Perry Donor

group logos

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2013
Contacts: Karen Hadden 512-797-8481 Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition
Cyrus Reed 512-740-4086 Lone Star Sierra Club
Tom "Smitty" Smith 512-797-8468 Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Download this press release in pdf format for printing.

Austin, TX A bill that would increase the concentration of radioactive waste to be dumped in Texas is set to be heard on the House floor on Monday, May 20th. Waste Control Specialists (WCS) would benefit even more from the hotter radioactive materials going to their radioactive waste dump in West Texas, and would get to bring in the waste sooner, raising the annual cap on imported waste from other states from 120,000 to 275,000 curies. SEED Coalition, Public Citizen, and the Lone Star Sierra Club oppose the bill, which is set to be heard on Monday, May 20th on the House floor. SB 791 is authored by Sen. Seliger and Representative Drew Darby.

"This bill fails to protect the public. It fails to ensure that radioactive waste will not be buried when water is present. It lets trucks continue carrying radioactive waste down any highway in our state, without designated routes. We expect WCS to come back to the legislature numerous times demanding to dump ever more radioactive waste on Texas" said Karen Hadden, of SEED Coalition. "The bill fails to require safety audits by the State Auditor. Instead, TCEQ would do occasional audits, which equates to the fox guarding the henhouse. And it lets TCEQ authorize bringing in additional kinds of radioactive waste, such as depleted uranium, without any public hearing, which should be required for such a major license change."

"Every session for the last 10 years, WCS has exerted its high-dollar political influence to press for their own corporate gain, at the risk of public safety. This time they want to require the wastes to be compacted to a third of the original size, increasing the concentration of its radioactivity and increasing risks in order to increase profits. Next session they’ll be back, saying they have all this extra room at the dump site, and clamoring to put in more radioactive waste, " said Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen. "The only person who benefits is billionaire Harold Simmons, WCS’ owner, whose private gain comes at the expense of public risk. Simmons is known for political attack ads. He’s Perry’s second largest donor and the second largest donor nationally to the "attack ads" plaguing our elections."

Donations by Simmons and WCS to state legislators in 2012 are documented online at: and

"In order to protect our water and public safety, the bill should require that the site be dry before waste is buried, but it doesn’t,’ said Karen Hadden, of SEED Coalition. "Radioactive waste shouldn’t be buried when standing water is present at the site, but that’s exactly what a recently approved license amendment now lets WCS do. Over 40% of the monitoring wells have shown the presence of water, but radioactive waste is being buried anyway. Scientists at TCEQ rang the alarm about groundwater contamination risks in 2007 when they recommended denial of WCS’ license."

"All of the TCEQ scientists working on the license determined the geology of the site to be inadequate because of the possibility of radioactive contamination of our aquifers and groundwater. The groundwater lies only 14 feet below the bottom of the radioactive waste dump trenches. However there was clear political pressure throughout the entire process indicating that WCS would receive the license regardless of how inadequate the site was," said Glenn Lewis in a previous statement. He was one of three TCEQ employees that resigned in protest of licensing the site.

"I’m going to try to work with the House sponsor to strip out the most egregious aspects of the bill that literally put radioactive waste a few feet away from contaminating our water supplies. I’m sure no one wants to put our aquifers at risk or spend billions on clean-up," said Representative Lon Burnam, District 90.

The bill would require radioactive waste to be volume reduced by three times, a provision that benefits Studsvik, a radioactive waste processor in Tennessee. The public has seen no studies that show that burying this more concentrated radioactive waste would be safe at the Texas site, and there are questions about whether the material would become too hot to transport safely. Radioactive waste going to the WCS is mainly from nuclear reactors from around the country, and while fuel rods are excluded, very hot materials such as control rod blades are already being shipped to the site. Exposure to radioactivity can lead to cancers, birth defects and even death.

The bill requires the collection of $25 million in funds for perpetual care, but this is not nearly enough. "All six of the so-called ‘low-level’ nuclear dumps in this country have leaked or are leaking, often costing the states in which they are located millions of dollars," said Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director at Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "One of the now closed nuclear waste dumps with supposedly ‘impermeable clay’ threatens the water supply downstream and is projected to cost in the range of $5 billion to ‘clean up.’ In fact, if it does get ‘cleaned up’ the waste could end up getting buried again in West Texas at the WCS site."

"TCEQ rushed into a risky deal when they approved a faulty application to dispose of some of the most dangerous radioactive waste known," said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of Lone Star Sierra Club. "And they did it without giving members of the public who are at risk a chance to prove that the application is faulty. The Lone Star Sierra Club immediately appealed TCEQ’s decision to deny us a contested case hearing to the State District Court and we won, but the state and WCS immediately appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals, and we’re still waiting for that hearing to happen."

95% of the radioactive waste being shipped to this site is from nuclear power plants. So-called ‘Low-level’ radioactive waste is defined as everything radioactive in a nuclear power plant except the high-level reactor fuel core. Pipes that carry radioactive water, filters and sludge from the water in the reactor and even the entire reactor itself when it is dismantled – thousands of tons of contaminated concrete and steel can all be dumped in a "low-level" facility. None of the radioactive elements present in high-level waste is prohibited from being included in low-level waste.