FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

RadWaste and Texas’ Future

by LARAY POLK

“It took us six years to get legislation on this passed in Austin, but now we’ve got it all passed. We first had to change the law to where a private company can own a license (to handle radioactive waste), and we did that. Then we got another law passed that said they can only issue one license. Of course, we were the only ones that applied.” –Harold Simmons, Valhi Inc.

How do you get people to vote for radioactive waste to be dumped in Texas in close proximity to the Ogallala and Dockum aquifers? And how do you also get the same community to agree to bankroll the project’s $75 million buildout costs? You sell it as a prosperity issue.

The promise of future prosperity is more hopeful than discussing point-blank realities. Namely, that the source of prosperity is a dumpsite in west Texas, near the border of New Mexico, that has the potential for receiving varying grades of radioactive waste from 36 states. And the geographical area in question has three inherent properties that have scientists, engineers and activists worried: red clay, aquifers and high winds.

On May 9, voters from Andrews County went to the booth to participate in a bond election, paid for by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), to decide whether or not their county will pay for such a dumpsite. 642 people voted affirmative and 639 against.

A discrepancy of three votes has decided a crucial decision that could have far-ranging affects on all present and future residents of Texas and beyond. According to business interests involved in the project, financing through normal channels would require a two to three year wait in the current economic downturn. With Andrews County paying for the initial costs, construction is planned to begin this summer.

The preliminary funding hurdle has been cleared, but central to receiving radioactive waste is a license granted by state regulators. Earlier this year, WCS received their license from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). It allows them to accept waste from Texas and Vermont as well as from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Waste accepted from the DOE may originate from anywhere in the country.

Proper licensing coupled with immediate financing is a boon for WCS. If they proceed as planned, they will capitalize on South Carolina’s decision in July to shutter its low-level radioactive waste operations. The Texas site stands to profit by absorbing the radioactive waste from the 36 states that South Carolina will no longer be servicing.

And the recent move by the Obama administration to put a hold on the Yucca Mountain repository may leave the door open for the proposed Texas dumpsite to become an alternative location for nuclear reactor waste that had been previously destined for Nevada.

While WCS is licensed to accept Class A, B, and C waste (A is the least hazardous), they currently cannot accept waste outside the compact with Vermont. That would require the approval of eight compact commissioners, six from Texas and two from Vermont.

This arrangement, however, is rife with conflicts of interest. The commissioners in Texas are appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. WCS is owned by Valhi. Valhi is owned by Harold Simmons, a major Republican party and Perry donor. Other campaign contributions include Simmons’ financial support for attack ads on the two most recent Democratic presidential candidates. He helped fund both the swiftboating of John Kerry and the ads by the American Issues Project that questioned Barack Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers.

Valhi’s rush to buildout in Andrews County, ironically, is tied to receiving federal stimulus money for processing the PCBs from the Hudson River.

***

This issue of an expanding radioactive waste dumpsite and corollary ones will not be going away any time soon as Texas has its own dependency on such sites. In addition to being home to two commercial nuclear reactors, eight additional entities are currently seeking licenses to build reactors in Texas.

WCS has been licensed to operate Andrews County’s radioactive waste dumpsite for 15 years. In that length of time, varying grades of radioactive refuse could make its way underground in Texas, releasing radionuclides into the Ogallala and Dockum aquifers. The voters of Andrews County have spoken but theirs should not be the final voice on this issue.

For further reading and updates, see No Bonds for Billionaires and Nuke Free Texas.

LARAY POLK is a multimedia artist and writer who lives in Dallas,Texas. She can be contacted at laraypolk@me.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail