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West Texas Nuke Dump Hits a Snag

by Published on

Better late than never.

Activists have finally managed to score a victory in the fight to keep Texas from becoming the nation’s dumping ground for nuclear waste. Yesterday, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) announced that it was postponing a decision on rules that would guide the import of low-level radioactive waste from out-of-state. The move came after citizens bombarded the compact commission with nearly 2,400 comments and 15 legislators signed onto a letter urging a go-slow approach.

In a statement, the compact commission’s executive director said the May 11th meeting in Andrews, Texas was postponed to give the commission time to “properly consider and respond to each comment.”

Critics have accused the 8-member compact commission of rushing import rules without regard to unresolved safety and liability issues. Waste Control Specialists, the Harold Simmons-owned company behind the privatized radioactive waste dump, has made no secret of its plans to eventually ask the compact commission for permission to bring in radioactive waste from the 36 states that currently lack a disposal option.

With import rules in place, the company could presumably begin securing commitments from nuclear waste generators around the country. In their letter, the legislators blast the commissioners for failing to consider the fiscal and environmental fallout for the state if (or when, if you believe environmental groups) the dump leaks or the potential safety implications of transporting thousands of tons of waste through Texas cities.

The letter concludes:

Given that import threatens the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Texans, as well as the fiscal implications of increased liability resulting from import, we believe that the potential costs of import to the state far outweigh the benefits, particularly since those benefits largely accrue to a private, profit-motivated site operator (Waste Control Specialists).

For these reasons, we ask you not to adopt the proposed import rule, at least until the Legislature has had the opportunity to consider these issues of such lasting significance for Texans for generations to come.

It’s worth pointing out that this is probably just a temporary setback from Waste Control. The commission plans to announce another hearing on the rules soon.

Forrest Wilder, a native of Wimberley, Texas, is associate editor of the Observer. Forrest specializes in environmental reporting and runs the “Forrest for the Trees” blog. Forrest has appeared on Democracy Now!, The Rachel Maddow Show and numerous NPR stations. His work has been mentioned by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, Time magazine and many other state and national publications. Other than filing voluminous open records requests, Forrest enjoys fishing, kayaking, gardening and beer-league softball. He holds a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.