Page 18


SOJOId BIJUIN \\ k , s\\s , ,`,,\\1 Protesters at Matagorda Bay, 1979 staffed health department is unable to adequately inspect existing facilities for compliance with state radiation control regulations. Two regulatory bills, amended versions of the Texas Radiation Control Act, will be introduced this session: one bill, drafted by the health department and sponsored by Rep. Bennie Bock, D-New Braunfels, and Sen. John Traeger, D-Seguin, would allow the department to acquire title to land used for a permanent low-level radioactive waste site.. The department would lease the property to an operator, prepare an environmental impact statement according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines, and conduct a public hearing. Criminal penalties for violating the Radiation Control Act would be substantially increased. And the operator would be required to make annual payments into a perpetual care fund to insure coverage of long-term costs and possible spill cleanups. If the bill were passed without the provisions for public ownership and operation found in other proposed legislation, the health department could license private contractors and effectively set up a national dump. A more comprehensive regulatory bill will be sponsored by Rep. Keese in the House and Sen. Kent Caperton, D-Bryan, in the Senate. Other legislators could jump on the bandwagon when the bill is opened for co-authorship a tactic Keese hopes will make the bill highly visible and increase its list of supporters, which includes humorist John Henry Faulk and oilman J. R. Parten. The Keese-Caperton plan goes further than the health department bill by setting a framework for developing comprehensive standards for the licensing of processing and storage facilities. The intent is to avoid the casual method of licensing that has characterized the states’ temporary low-level radioactive waste storage facilities: NSSI, for instance, was originally licensed to manufacture medical sources. Through a series of amendments implemented without public hearings, the firm expanded into a storage facility for state-wide and national nuclear wastes. Another plus for the Keese-Caperton sponsored bill is its provision for establishment of a classification system for radioactive wastes based on radiological, chemical and biological characteristics and physical state. The health department bill avoids providing for classification of low-level wastes, and in doing so defers to the federal definition in which low-level wastes constitute roughly everything but nuclear weapons production wastes, spent fuel and uranium mill tailings. This al lows some highly radioactive nuclear wastes to technically fit into the lowlevel category. “According to the federal definition, just about anything less deadly than a hydrogen bomb is considered low-level,” says former Bechtel Corp. engineer, John Stiles, who also faults TENRAC’s recommendation to determine loW-level waste largely through the “half-life . of 100 years or less” criterion which overlooks radiation type, particle strength; concentration and toxicity. A potential problem area common to the TENRAC proposal and the KeeseCaperton bill is an “in-state only” clause which ,would prohibit a permanent Texas-based low-level burial site from accepting out-of-state waste. According to a House Study Group report, the clause is of “dubious constitutionality.” The Supreme Court has called the categorical refusal of out-of-state waste “discriminating against interstate commerce.” The health department’s Bailey has said he would not be opposed to a Texas-based regional site. “We generate more low-level nuclear waste than Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma put together,” he says, pointing out that individual sites in each state would not be economically feasible. A federal “Low-level Radioactive Waste Policy Act” passed Dec. 13 also favors regional instead of single-state waste facilities. To legislators and state officials, acknowledgement of a possible regional low-level radioactive burial site in Texas is a political liability. According to Austin attorney Rick Lowerre, who was largely responsible for drafting the Keese-Caperton sponsored legislation, an “in-state waste only” provision is unrealistic but still can make a bill more palatable. Accordingly, regardless of Gov. Clements said opposition to allowing out-of-state wastes into a permanent Texas nuclear waste site, the TENRAC recommendations leave open the possibility that out-of-state wastes could be accepted “if a multi-state disposal agreement” is approved by the legislature. In a ‘slightly different spirit, the Keese-Caperton bill encourages the “development of regional sites that divide the burden of disposal of radioactive wastes generated in the region among the states.” In the event that a low-level waste burial facility is authorized, neither of the proposed regulatory bills offer the public credible financial protection. The perpetual care fund proposed by each bill could only be implemented through a constitutional amendment. An amendment has yet to be proposed. And without such a fund the state could end THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 POE 71111%,!!,,,N,Wilkliw oro +9….. eo.di!”fe n.,