Some technical notes The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, under provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, is expressly given the responsibility of overseeing the disposal of nuclear waste. While that is the national mandate, the NRC inherited many agreements that the old Atomic Energy Commission had entered into with the states, like the Texas-AEC Regulatory Agreement of 1963, which gave Texas the authority to license disposal of lowlevel nuclear waste and other special materials, reactor waste excluded. Fifteen state agencies must review and comment on dump site license applications, but the “lead agency” involved, the Texas Dept. of Health Resources, has yet to hear from Beierle this time around, though they remember him from the Cooper venture. Martin Wukasch, TDHR head of Occupational Health and Radiation Control, said Beierle has approached Texas Land Commissioner Bob Armstrong about deeding his prospective dump site to the state, since such sites must be on state or federal land. Armstrong reportedly said neither he nor anyone else had the statutory authority to accept such lands. So, unless Beierle can get the federal government to take the land or get the Legislature to change the law, Beierle can do nothing, even if he gets around his public relations problem. Then too, since the NRC is new enough not to be entrapped by the industry, and since it is currently besieged by environmentalists concerned about the effects of the nuclear fuel cycle, especially waste dumping, it may well decide to take a firmer grasp on the low-level disposal issue. Beierle’s claim of site suitability is a judgment made on the basis of area core samples. While a geologic map shows the northeast Texas substratum to be of a relatively impermeable clay and free of aquifer recharge zones, the nonhomogeneous nature of soils means that any such evaluation must be very site specific, i.e., one would have to have the core samples of a specific site before digging a burial trench. The general rule of thumb for dump siting is to locate as far inland as possible; so a tract near the Red River . doesn’t seem particularly favorable. Also, the TexasLouisiana border counties have more earthquake activity than any other area in the state, though seismic effects have been minimal so far. E. W. Harkins nuclear power advocates, Beierle offers the stale assertion that “radicals” are behind all the commotion, both in Roxton and the country as a whole. “To my knowledge,” he says, “there has been no [leaking] at any of the plants I’ve helped set up.” The reports of subterranean soil migration of plutonium at Maxey Flats and elsewhere, he says, “are unproved accusations.” Hedging a bit, he notes that the escaping radiation at the Kentucky site is “within permissible limits anyway.” Fat lot of consolation that is to the human and animal users of contaminated groundwater channels nearby. Lost innocence Roxton is a quiet place, quiet by almost anybody’s measure. Its 947 residents rarely get exercised over a public issue, and people have little news to exchange beyond the small talk that is shared each morning outside the new brick-and-glass post office on Front Street, where they come for their mail. But Fred Beierle and his promotion have set people against one another, some say permanently. “It’s a shame for a little iddy-biddy town like this to get so tore up,” says Gladys Ridgeway, for 56 years the town grocer. Clyde White, cafe proprietor: “I doubt we’ll ever get back together again after this Beierle business.” It is important to note that no one’s character has been impugned. Along Front Street, one hears no talk of rank venality, of private gain, of peculation. What is a source of outrage, however, is the hoggish lack of caution on the part of a leadership obviously vulnerable to gaudy business promotions. And the murky doings of the Industrial Board have greatly offended the political selfesteem of the town. “The bankers and businessmen thought they could put this thing out in the country with the rubes and reap the benefits by remote control,” says 28year-old Maury Smarts Jr. Smarts, who farms some family land on the edge of town, was one of the organizers of the Concerned Citizens of Lamar County. Nettie Whipple, who has owned and operated the town’s hardware store for the last 64 years, asks this question of Beierle and the we-know-what’s-best crowd: “If it’s so good, surely they could find somewhere else to put it. Why not way out yonder in the desert? But I guess money talks. And you know what? A lot of those boys that went over to South Carolina never’d been up in an airplane before. I think they got their heads turned.” Beierle called it quits in Lamar County on Dec. 5. But the Concerned Citizens 14 The Texas Observer haven’t shut down their mimeograph machine. They mean to apply their energies. and the lessons learned in the Beierle campaign to town politics. Roxton officeholders, at least those who caved in on the Beierle deal, will be opposed by slates of Concerned Citizens veterans in upcoming town elections. The stakes Fred Beierle says he’s going to build his dump in northeast Texas no matter what. He’s core-sampled a 30,000 square mile tract that takes in Fannin, Red River, Bowie, Hunt, Delta, and Lamar counties, and has pronounced the land “the best I know of for nuclear waste burial. And he is in a hurry. There’s money to be made in running a nuclear waste dump, especially in Texas. Already, the state ships 800 barrels of radioactive waste weekly to Maxey Flats, and with two large nuclear plants scheduled for commercial power generation in Texas by 1980, the waste disposal business here could be extremely profitable provided some town or county is willing to invite in the first developer. Beierle reckons that a Texas dump would attract about 150,000 cubic feet of radioactive waste each month within three to five years of opening. A dump operator in the state might expect, he says, to gross $450,000 monthly from such a volume of business. So Beierle’s in a hurry. But so is the federal government. Some 50 million cubic feet of low-level waste is already buried in the U.S., and the Energy Research and Development Administration is intensifying a search in 45 states for six new underground sites. Geology and geography favor Texas, says ERDA, and sites along the Gulf Coast, in the east Texas salt basin, the Delaware basin of far west Texas, and the Panhandle are getting close scrutiny. The first of the new federally run dump sites is to be selected late next year and
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