FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

RadWaste and Texas’ Future

“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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail