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« NRC makes public two more key documents re: Holtec/ELEA CISF, in response to Beyond Nuclear FOIA request | Main | Environmental coalition urges Congress to defund environmentally unjust nuke waste dumps »
Thursday
Jun282018

Texas Democratic Party stands against environmental injustice, and highly radioactive waste transport, storage, and disposal

Thanks to Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition in Austin, TX for calling our attention to this good news.

In addition to municipal resolutions in both TX and NM, now a state political party has stated its opposition to highly radioactive waste centralized interim storage facilities targeted at the TX/NM borderlands.

The State of Texas Democratic Party, in the "Environmental Protection, Regulation, and Enforcement" section of its 2018-2020 party platform, has stated it support for:

  • the enactment of laws and regulations to protect low-income communities and communities of color from environmental racism and environmental injustice;
  • halting the plan to import high-level radioactive waste for consolidated storage or disposal in Texas due to risks of water contamination, security concerns and transportation accidents, and we oppose transport of high-level radioactive waste on our highways or railways...

The Texas Democrats Platform Committee passed this party platform on June 23, 2018.

There are two proposed schemes for the centralized, or consolidated, "interim storage" (CIS) of highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel that would significantly impact Texas. The first targets Texas directly: Waste Control Specialists, LLC's (WCS) proposal to "temporarily store" (for decades, centuries, or indefinitely into the future) 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste in Andrews County, Texas, right on the state line with New Mexico.

But another CIS facility (CISF) proposal, by Holtec International and the Eddy-Lea [Counties] Energy Alliance (ELEA), targets a site in southeastern New Mexico located just 39 miles from WCS in TX.  The Holtec/ELEA CISF proposal is for up to 173,600 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste.

Either one of these de facto permanent, surface storage, parking lot dumps opening would mean unprecedented large-scale shipment, by truck, train, and/or barge, on Texas interstate highways, railways, and perhaps even into Texas ports, of highly radioactive wastes. These shipments could number in the many thousands, over the course of not years, but decades.

If the wastes ever left the TX/NM borderlands (they might not ever leave, once delivered), they could well pass right back through the TX communities they have traveled through in the first place -- depending on where the geologic repository opens for permanent disposal. And in the case of contaminated or leaking containers, the CISF applicants have stated a "return to sender" policy -- meaning shipments could travel back through TX communities en route to the nuclear power plants from which they originated in the first place.

TX has also been targeted for permanent disposal of highly radioactive wastes in the past. In the mid-1980s, the federal Department of Energy had placed Deaf Smith County, TX (known as an agricultural breadbasket) on its short list for Western repository candidates. The George W. Bush administration in late 2008 repeated the possibility that TX could be so targeted again in the future.

Both the WCS, TX and the Holtec/ELEA, NM CISFs raise serious environmental justice concerns. The surrounding area is home to large Hispanic communities. The area is already heavily polluted by intense fossil fuel (natural gas fracking, oil extraction) and nuclear (uranium enrichment, both military and commercial "low-level" radioactive waste dumping, and plans for depleted uranium (DU) processing and disposal) industries.

If you are active in a state political party, please consider urging it to pass a similar platform plank to the one just passed by the Texas Democratic Party. After all, in addition to being directly targeted for CISFs (TX, NM), or a permanent burial dump (Yucca Mountain in NV), most states in the Lower 48 would be very hard hit by high-risk shipments to the dumps, if one ever opens. See, for example, the 44 states through which highly radioactive waste trucks and trains would pass en route to these Western dump-sites. And see the additional states at risk from potential barge shipments en route to these same Western dumps. (While the preceding maps show routes bound for the Yucca Mountain, NV targeted dump-site, the routes to the TX/NM borderlands would be similar, or the same, during the initial legs of the journeys nationwide, the further from the American Southwest. Only at a certain point would routes then diverge from each other, and take other routes to the borderlands of NM/TX, instead of NV.)