DOE awards contract to Waste Control
700 railcar loads of waste concerns Andrews rancher
By Ruth Campbell
ANDREWS COUNTY Waste Control Specialists was awarded a two-year $7.5 million contract Thursday to temporarily store tons of waste from a defunct nuclear weapons processing plant in Fernald, Ohio.
Waste to be stored at the WCS site in western Andrews County would come from Silos 1 and 2 at Fernald, according to Jeff Wagner, public affairs officer for Fluor Fernald, the company charged with cleaning up the Fernald site. Byproduct from Silo 3 went to Envirocare of Utah.
Shipments will start at the end of May and last until December, Wagner said.
Waste Control President and Chief Operating Officer George Dials said he was pleased with DOE’s selection. The company employs 108 people in Andrews County and 10 at its Dallas headquarters.
He said he appreciates the support from Andrews County residents.
“The site is a good site to store this material. It creates economic opportunity for us and derives economic benefit for Andrews, Texas,” Dials said, adding that a “few more” people would probably be hired as a result of the contract.
Not everyone is happy about the contract though.
“I understand they’re going to ship 700 railcar loads of radioactive waste in. I think the fact that the site is over at least three aquifers — one of them a potable aquifer — is a very short-sighted thing to do because an earthquake could cause fissures in the red bed creating a pathway for radioactivity to enter the water zone,” longtime Andrews County rancher John Post said.
Post, who has lived since 1934 in an area 11 miles south of what is now Waste Control’s site, said that he had heard some experts say the radioactive waste being shipped in is higher level than is being stated.
“I don’t like it,” he said.
After treatment and packaging, the waste must meet all applicable Department of Transportation requirements. Driving teams will call in at pre-established intervals and each trailer will be tracked with GPS technology, the release said.
Cyrus Reed, a lobbyist for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club in Austin, said the contract award doesn’t surprise him, especially considering no other state would take the waste.
“Waste Control Specialists was the only game in town for DOE and Fernald. It’s disappointing they would make this decision before the process is complete,” Reed said.
Reed is referring to a contested case hearing Sierra Club has requested before the State Department of Health Services protesting the agency granting a license amendment to WCS so it could take more low-level radioactive waste.
The uranium byproduct will be mixed with fly ash and concrete and housed in half-inch thick carbon steel containers. The containers will be shipped on specially designed flatbed trucks, Wagner said.
“In all, we expect we’ll need about 5,000 canisters to complete the shipping campaign,” he said.
Silos 1 and 2 contain about 8,900 cubic yards of silty clay-like material from processing ore from the Belgian Congo in the early 1950s. Silo 3 contains 5,100 cubic yards of powder-like residues from the processing of Canadian and U.S. ores from the 1950s. The material has been burned to reduce volume.
The Department of Energy will still own the waste.
Waste Control Specialists stores low-level radioactive waste at its site in Andrews County near the New Mexico border.
The amendment, granted by the state Department of Health Services Feb. 23, allows WCS to temporarily house more than 1 million cubic feet of uranium radioactive waste.
The company has also applied for a license to dispose of low-level radioactive waste through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. If the company gets the disposal license, it could dispose of the Fernald waste.
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