Company wants to store nuclear waste in Texas

October 10, 2004

DALLAS -- A company is seeking state permission to accept millions of pounds of radioactive waste from U.S. weapons programs, including a site in Ohio.

Officials in Utah and Nevada have already rejected requests to accept the waste for permanent disposal in their states. The waste is now stored at the U.S. Department of Energy's closed Fernald site near Cincinnati. Uranium was processed at the site for almost 40 years for the government's production of nuclear weapons. The government is now concentrating on cleaning up the 1,050-acre site.

Waste Control Specialists says the material can safely be stored at the company's hazardous waste facility in Andrews County in rural west Texas. The waste consists mainly of uranium tailings that have been stored in concrete silos on the Fernald site.

The company has filed applications with the Texas Department of State Health Services. One would amend its current state license to expand the volume of hazardous material that can be stored by 1.5 million cubic feet. The other seeks permission to accept uranium tailings, material left from the processing of uranium ore for nuclear weapons and defense projects, The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday.

Environmental groups oppose the applications.

"There's a reason why both Utah and Nevada would not accept this stuff. It's very dangerous," said Margot Clark, outreach coordinator for the state chapter of the Sierra Club. "We don't think Texas should become a dumping site for waste from weapons development. Besides that, the Waste Control Specialists facility has never dealt with this kind of waste before."

Attorney Mike Woodward, who represents the company, said the uranium tailings that would be stored carry little risk.

"It is far less dangerous than much of the hazardous material being moved around the country regularly," he said, noting that it is less active than most types of low-level nuclear waste. He said the company had not secured a contract with the Energy Department to take the waste.

[TNSI note: This claim is completely false and misleading; see NYS and EPA opinions from a 1994 DOE report (1.4 MB .pdf file) and "Safety of the High-Level Uranium Ore Residues at the Niagara Falls Storage Site, Lewiston, New York", a 1995 NAS/NRC report which stigmatizes all K-65 residues as High-level Waste (HLW).]

Bill Taylor, the Energy Department's director of the Fernald site cleanup, said Thursday that he knows of no discussions between the department and Waste Control Specialists about accepting the Fernald waste. The government had planned to transport it by truck shipments through 2006 for disposal on government property in the Nevada desert, but Nevada has threatened a lawsuit to block that plan.

The radioactive waste would be shipped to Texas in stainless steel containers and be buried in clay under 30 feet of topsoil.

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