Archive for the ‘Toxic Waste Dump’ Category

DOE Seeks More Information on Private Interim Nuclear Waste Storage Facilities


Sonal Patel
POWER Magazine

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information to assess the future role of private consolidated interim storage facilities in the agency’s plans for an integrated nuclear waste management system.

The DOE noted in an October 27 notice published in the Federal Register that since it unveiled a strategy for the management and disposal of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel in January 2013, it has become aware of a number of private initiatives that have been established and could provide the DOE or utilities with interim storage facilities.

"[Private initiatives], although were not envisioned in the Administration’s Strategy, represent a potentially promising alternative to federal facilities for consolidated interim storage," the agency said.

The request for information seeks input on questions such as how private initiatives, as part of an overall integrated nuclear waste management system, would provide a "workable solution" for interim storage of spent nuclear waste and high-level waste.

It also questions what benefits or drawbacks such initiatives offer, compared to a federally financed capital project for a government-owned contractor-operated interim storage facility, which business models those initiatives would pursue, and how they would manage liabilities during the storage period.

The DOE’s request comes days after Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told attendees at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event that inaction on spent fuel management posed a "significant headwind for many decisions in the nuclear space."

The DOE’s planned integrated waste management system will include transportation, storage, and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. It may include (among other elements) pilot interim storage facilities, initially focused on accepting spent nuclear fuel from shutdown reactor sites. It may also include full-scale, consolidated interim storage facilities that provide greater capacity and flexibility within the waste management system.

The DOE’s January 2013–released strategy document proposes a pilot facility for consolidated storage by 2021. That facility is to be followed by a larger storage facility by 2025, and then by a geologic repository for final disposition of used nuclear fuel by 2048.

At least two private sector players have proposed interim storage solutions to date. In April 2016, Waste Control Specialists LLC, with support from AREVA, submitted a license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a consolidated interim storage facility in Andrews County, Texas.

Holtec International is also gearing up to submit safety documentation to the federal nuclear agency for a proposed consolidated interim storage facility in Southeast New Mexico.

Opposition to the Andrews County nuclear waste storage site, at least, is already mounting. On October 27, antinuclear groups Beyond Nuclear and Nuclear Information and Resource Service, citizen group Public Citizen, and environmental group SEED Coalition, called on the NRC to terminate its review of the license application.

"The groups are concerned that the ‘interim’ storage facility may become the de facto permanent home for the highly toxic waste," the groups said in a joint statement. "Given the long battle over Yucca Mountain, the groups have zero confidence that Congress or federal regulators would have the stomach for fighting to move the nuclear waste a second time from WCS or any other ‘interim’ site. And, with utilities totally off the hook and taxpayers footing the entire bill, those that generated the waste would have no incentive to ensure its safe disposal in a permanent geologic repository."

—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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.

Feds sue to block acquisition of Dallas radioactive waste company

The U.S. Justice Department is suing to block the acquisition of Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists, which wants to expand the nuclear waste dump it operates in West Texas.

NOV. 18, 2016

By Kiah Collier
Texas Tribune

WCS storage site
An overhead view in 2012 of Waste Control Specialists’ low-level radioactive waste storage facilities near Andrews, Texas. Photo: David Bowser

The U.S. Justice Department is suing to block a Salt Lake City-based company’s acquisition of Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company that wants to expand the nuclear waste dump it operates in West Texas.

If the $367 million merger with proposed buyer EnergySolutions goes through, it would "combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste (LLRW) available to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico," the Justice Department said in a statement announcing the civil antitrust lawsuit.

That merger would "deny commercial generators of LLRW – from universities and hospitals working on life-saving treatments to nuclear facilities producing 20 percent of the electricity in the United States – the benefits of vigorous competition that has led to significantly lower prices, better service and innovation in recent years."

"Since opening its LLRW disposal facility in 2012, Waste Control Specialists has provided EnergySolutions the only real competition it has ever faced," Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse in the statement, which noted that "billions of dollars are set to be awarded in the coming years."

EnergySolutions said it would "vigorously defend" the pending acquisition, noting in a statement that "there are numerous disposal sites for LLRW waste operated by the competitors of the two companies."

A spokesman for Waste Control Specialists did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

In April, the company submitted an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission seeking to expand the radioactive waste dump it operates in Andrews County. It was seeking to store tens of thousands of metric tons of spent nuclear reactor fuel that is currently scattered across the country. (Federal policymakers have been trying to figure out what to do with the high-level radioactive waste for decades.)

The commission has requested additional information from the company in June that it has yet to provide. But the commission is still moving forward with its review and is seeking public comment on how the project could impact the environment, including endangered species, significant cultural resources and sensitive areas, along with increases in traffic and noise and dust from construction.

"We cannot proceed with the technical safety review until WCS adequately addresses our request for supplemental information, but we do have the information we need to begin the environmental scoping process now," said Mark Lombard, who heads the commission’s division of spent fuel management, in a statement this week. "WCS will bear the cost of staff time devoted to the environmental review, even if we are unable to docket the application in its current form."

Written comments can be submitted at; via email to; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN- 12 H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001.

Read more of the Tribune’s related coverage:

  • Anti-nuclear groups seize on missing information in license application from Waste Control Specialists, which says it’s normal to add information to a complex, voluminous application.
  • The company operating a low-level nuclear waste dump in West Texas applied for a license to begin accepting highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.
Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Culberson County Supports Nuclear Waste Plan, Judge Says

June 19, 2015

Hudspeth County Herald

radio active symbol

Though he said he is not prepared either to "rubber stamp" the proposal or to "veto it immediately," Culberson County Judge Carlos Urias said Monday (June 15) that he believes a majority of elected officials and county residents support a plan to make the county the destination for the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.

Urias said that he thinks a majority of commissioners would vote to support the radioactive-waste proposal now – but that Culberson County officials remain in an "information-gathering" mode. He said he would likely bring the matter before commissioners in August.

"Being rural, we don’t have too many opportunities for new businesses," Urias said. "There are benefits in terms of jobs and tax revenues. When you mention ‘nuclear’, there are concerns – I understand that.

"It’s a controversial venture," he said, "but if the people of Culberson County support it, I will not hesitate to put it on the agenda and to support it."

Urias’ comments came after a June 11 public meeting in Van Horn – at which the most outspoken of the roughly 80 attendees opposed the nuclear-waste plan. But Urias said that about 50 of those 80 attendees – including most of those who spoke in opposition – were not Culberson County residents. And he said that opposition from non-county residents would not intimidate Culberson County officials or deter them from supporting the project.

"It’s a Culberson County decision," Urias said, "not a Hudspeth or Jeff Davis or Brewster or Reeves County decision."

Urias expressed frustration at news reports – specifically a piece by Midland’s NewsWest9 television – that claimed there was no local support for the proposal. He said those reports were based on comments from non-county residents. Urias said the station had not spoken with him or any of the other Culberson County elected officials, from the City of Van Horn or the school district, who were present at the June 11 meeting and support the project.

The construction in Culberson County of a long-term storage facility for high-level radioactive waste would be a major change in the West Texas landscape – and could pose risks to regional residents far beyond Culberson County. At the June 11 meeting, speakers cited the effects of a potential leak on the environment and human health – and on the possibility of the site being the target of a terrorist attack. Waste would be transported by truck or rail, creating additional risks in the region.

The facility could begin by storing spent fuel from nuclear power plants in Texas – in Somervell and Matagorda counties – but is ultimately planned as the destination for spent fuel from all of the nation’s 100-plus commercial reactors. The spent fuel is some of the most dangerous radioactive waste the country produces.

Waste companies have said that a West Texas facility could be an "interim" storage site for the spent fuel – though that interim could last as long as a century, and the dangers of the waste would continue far longer than that. Opponents note that safety standards can deteriorate over time. They cite the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, near Carlsbad, N.M. – the facility received high marks for safety after it opened, in the 1990s, but in 2014 was the site of multiple radioactive leaks.

Culberson County is the latest in a list of sites in West Texas and eastern New Mexico that have been proposed for the project. For years, a site in Nevada called Yucca Mountain was planned for the spent fuel. After sustained local opposition, the Yucca Mountain project was effectively abandoned in 2009, and the hunt for a new site began.

In Culberson County, an Austin-based company called Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, or AFCI-Texas, proposes to store spent nuclear fuel about 40 miles east of Van Horn – on land 9 miles north of Kent and Interstate 10. AFCI is reportedly negotiating for the purchase of "several thousand acres" of the Apache Ranch from the Dan A. Hughes Company. The Dan A. Hughes Company is a Beeville, Texas-based oil-and-gas company. The Apache Ranch property is just beyond the northern end of the Davis Mountains, and is about 10 miles from both the Jeff Davis and Reeves county lines.

At the June 11 meeting, held at the Karen D. Young Auditorium in Van Horn, AFCI principal Bill Jones described the company’s plan. Nuclear waste would be stored above-ground, in steel canisters encased in concrete. Jones showed diagrams of circles, 150 miles in radius, extending from potential storage sites – showing the area that could be affected in a catastrophic, "worst-case scenario" disaster at the site. Such a disaster would likely involve an attack or explosion, rather than a leak. The affected area would include most of Hudspeth County and much of the Davis Mountains and Big Bend area.

Dr. Sean McDeavitt, a Texas A&M nuclear engineer who said he is not in the employ of AFCI, also spoke at the meeting. He emphasized the security measures that would be in place in the transportation, storage and monitoring of the waste.

AFCI says the project would take six to eight years to complete, and it could be a decade or more before the site received radioactive waste.

AFCI says the project would involve a capital investment of $154 million, tax collections of $10 million a year and the "potential for significant future expansion and development." The company has said that construction of the facility would employ about 180 people, and that about 100 people would be employed to maintain the facility.

The Kent site is not the first West Texas property AFCI has considered for the project. In November 2011, Jones and Humble met with Hudspeth County officials, to discuss a plan to store the waste north of Fort Hancock. Hudspeth officials rejected the proposal.

AFCI also approached the community of Big Spring, in Howard County. And in March 2014, officials in Loving County announced that they had met with AFCI representatives and would welcome the project. The Loving County proposal appeared to have the support of state and federal officials. It is unclear how the project was derailed and why AFCI is now exploring a different site.

There are other proposals to store the high-level waste in the region. Waste Control Specialists operates a radioactive-waste facility in Andrews County, east of Midland, and has applied for a permit to take on the high-level spent fuel. And a coalition of officials in Eddy and Lea counties, in New Mexico, is seeking to bring the waste storage to their area. AFCI representatives have said that if Culberson County does not embrace the project, it could be exposed to the risks of nuclear-waste storage, without any of the benefits.

The approval of Culberson County officials is not a legal prerequisite for AFCI’s project in the county. But after the controversy over the Yucca Mountain plan, the U.S. Department of Energy is pursuing a "bottom-up" approach to finding a storage site for the waste. Federal officials hope to find a community that will invite or support the project. At present, most spent nuclear fuel is kept on-site at reactors – but the federal government has collected fees from nuclear plants for long-term storage, and the company that wins the contract stands to profit from that fund, which totals about $30 billion.

Urias said that the project is not guaranteed to come to Kent – even if county officials vote to support it. But he said that even with the competition, the AFCI principals "seem to be confident" about their odds. Jones served as general counsel to Gov. Rick Perry, and Perry later appointed him to the Texas A&M board of regents and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.

"They seem to have a lot of clout," Urias said.

Dan Hughes, owner of the Apache Ranch, recently served as chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and he currently serves on the Texas A&M College of Geosciences Advisory Council; Hughes and AFCI’s Jones may have become familiar through their participation with the two institutions. Hughes also sits on the board of the Borderlands Research Institute, at Sul Ross State University.

Urias said that accepting the waste site would come with other benefits for Culberson County. Federal officials would be eager "to sweeten the deal" in any way they could, he said, and federal funding could be made available to construct a new school campus in Van Horn.

"If I wanted to, I could pass it now – but that’s not what I’m here for," Urias said. "We’re looking at the whole picture. It’s not like opening up a Walmart."

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.