Texas company: We want nation's radioactive waste


Associated Press

A company that recently received approval to dispose of low-level radioactive waste from two states in rural west Texas wants permission to dump such material from across the country.

Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists LLC received a license this year from state regulators to accept commercial waste from Texas and Vermont and from U.S. Department of Energy sites.

But it wrote in an April 6 letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it also wants to dispose of commercial waste from other states at the site near the New Mexico line. The letter was sent in advance of an NRC public hearing on low-level radioactive waste being held Friday.

South Carolina shut its doors to nearly all the nation's low-level radioactive waste in July, leaving 36 states with no place to dispose of some types of waste from nuclear power plants, hospitals, universities and research labs.

"We believe flexible import provisions would go very far toward resolving the nation's challenges ... now that the Barnwell (S.C.) facility no longer allows nationwide access for disposal of these wastes," wrote William Dornsife, the company's executive vice president for licensing and regulatory affairs.

To accept waste from outside its compact of Texas and Vermont, the company would need to win the approval of compact commissioners - six from Texas and two from Vermont - who are appointed by the governors of each state.

Waste Control spokesman Chuck McDonald said accepting waste from outside the compact would make operating the compact more affordable for Texas and Vermont and make the rest of the country safer.

"The material is there. It needs to be moved to a secure, licensed facility and we believe that our site can provide that need," he said.

Since the 1980s, the federal government has urged states to build low-level nuclear waste landfills, either on their own or in cooperation with other states in compact systems. But only one low-level landfill, in Utah, has opened in the past 30 years, and it accepts only Class A waste, considered the least hazardous.

That has left the more dangerous Class B and C waste in dozens of states stored on site, leading to fears that some of the material will be lost, or worse, stolen by terrorists and turned into dirty bombs.

The NRC is considering allowing Class B and C waste to be diluted so it could be labeled Class A waste and disposed of at the Utah facility, which is owned by EnergySolutions Inc. and is about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City. Waste Control Specialists, which is licensed to accept Class A, B and C waste, objects to that proposal.

Waste Control Specialists is a subsidiary of Delaware-based Valhi Inc. ( VHI - news - people ) Valhi's primary stockholder, Harold Simmons, is a top donor to Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Fears that Waste Control Specialists would eventually dump in waste from outside its compact in Texas have already led a Democratic lawmaker from Fort Worth to sponsor a bill requiring legislative approval to import out-of-compact waste. Texas Rep. Lon Burnam said he doesn't want Texas to become the nation's dumping ground.

"If you look at every nuclear power plant proposal that's out there, everybody seems to be assuming that they can send their waste to Texas because Texas is not going to protect itself," Burnam said.

"I think they're trying to undermine the intent of the national compacts. They want to fill it up as fast as they can, make as much money as they can and then walk away from it."

McDonald said Waste Control Specialists objects to Burnam's bill.

"We think the appropriate thing is for this brand-new compact commission to be allowed to establish rules and do the job the Legislature created it to do," he said.

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