The Texas OBSERVER The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1978 Ronnie Dugger, Publisher Vol. 70, No. 11. June 9, 1978 Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. EDITOR Jim Hightower MANAGING EDITOR Lawrence Walsh ASSOCIATE EDITORS Linda Rocawich Eric Hartman EDITOR AT LARGE Ronnie Dugger PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid, Susan Lee, Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Teresa Acosta STAFF ASSISTANTS: Margaret Watson, Bob Sinderrnann, Margot Beutler, Beverly Palmer, Harris Worcester, Larry Zinn, Connie Jacowitz, Jamie Murphy, Karrie Key, Christy Hoppe, Cathy Stevens, Lisa Spann CONTRIBUTORS: Kaye Northcott, Jo Clifton, Dave McNeely, Don Gardner, Warren Burnett, Paul Sweeney, Marshall Breger, Jack Hopper, Stanley Walker, Joe Frantz, Laura Eisenhour, Dan Hubig, Ben Sargent, Berke Breathed, Eje Wray, Roy Hamric, Thomas D. Bleich, Mark Stinson, Ave Bonar, Jeff Danziger, Lois Rankin, Maury Maverick Jr., Bruce Cory, John Henry Faulk, Chandler Davidson, Molly Ivins, Ralph Yarborough, Laura Richardson, Tim Mahoney, John Spragens Jr., Sheila R. Taylor BUSINESS STAFF: Cliff Olofson, Alice Embree, Ricky Cruz A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year. in January and July: 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. Publication no. 541300. years, $30. Foreign, except APO/FPO, $1 additional per year. Airmail, bulk orders. and group rates on request. Microfilmed by Microfilming Corporation of America, 21 Harristown Road. Glen Rock. N.J. 07452. Editorial and Business Offices: 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 744210V 2 JUNE 9, 1978 Nuclear waste is forever By Susan Reid Austin Thanks to its legacy from geologic times, Texas may become a burial site for the nation’s nuclear waste.* The eyes of federal energy officials are upon the state, and in less than a decade one Texas region or another could well become a major, if not the primary, nuclear storage dump in the United States. The federal decision hinges on the outcome of an often murky scientific and political debate over the feasibility of safely disposing of the growing stockpile of wastes accompanying nuclear energy developmenta debate, moreover, in which the voices of Texas officials and their constituents are by no means guaranteed a hearing. Until 1960, when America’s first commercial nuclear reactor went into operation, nuclear wastes were generated principally by obscure Atomic Energy Commission weapons plants and provoked little public controversy. But now that commercial enterprises produce a large and growing volume of nuclear waste, the entire nuclear power industry is threatened by a radioactive garbage crisis. * This article deals primarily with the problems of high-level waste disposal. “[These wastes are] characterized by high levels of penetrating radiation, high heat generation rates, and a long toxic life. High level waste is created when reactor spent fuel elements are dissolved in acid to recover unused uranium and plutonium for reuse as nuclear fuel. It is the acid solution remaining that is referred to as high level waste.” U.S. General Accounting Office, Nuclear Energy’s Dilemma: Disposing of Hazardous Radioactive Waste Safely, September 9, 1977. There are no high-level nuclear wastes stored in Texas yet, according to Roy Ray, an administrator with the Texas Energy Advisory Council. The Texas Department of Health Resources has responsibility for overseeing the handling and disposal of the state’s low-level wastes \(all other the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.