Friday, May 24, 2013

Nuke bill raises opposition from environmentalists


The nuclear waste dump site, whose majority owner is billionaire and GOP mega-donor Harold Simmons, accepted its first low-level radioactive waste about a year ago, ending an expensive and yearslong effort by the company to bury materials from medical, research and industrial activities and from nuclear power plants. Also buried there are PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River in New York and tons of Cold War-era radioactive waste from a former uranium-processing plant in Ohio.

Environmental groups have opposed the company's pressing for various types of waste to bury in the remote scrub brush terrain about 375 miles west of Dallas.

"It's just always something more, and I have to wonder where this will end," said Karen Hadden, executive director of the Texas SEED Coalition.

Originally the site was to handle low-level waste from a couple states but last legislative session lawmakers approved allowing waste from more than three dozen states to be buried at the facility.

Seliger's bill also seeks to promote sending low-level waste, known as Class A, out of Texas for burial and ups the annual curie limit for the next two years from 220,000 to 300,000, so that states outside the compact wanting to dispose of hotter waste, known as Class B and C, can.

The company, Andrews County and the state stand to make more money from the hotter waste. The county receives 5 percent and the state 25 percent of the company's revenues quarterly.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, said lawmakers should play an active role in regulating any plans by the company to expand the site's capacity and any change in its license, including the forms, types or streams of waste.

"The Legislature should impose limits on volume and radioactivity in that site," he said. "If those need to be changed later on those limits should be changed through the legislative process."

The bill includes prohibiting public comment or hearings on minor amendments to the license, which is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The bill defines minor as "a change in the type, volume or concentration limits of wastes to be received to the extent the change does not increase the total volume and curie capacities approved" in the existing license.

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