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J.F. Lehman & Company takes over bankrupt Waste Control Specialists -- now in complete control of NorthStar decommissioning venture

J.F. Lehman & Company ("JFLCO") has acquired Waste Control Specialists, LLC (WCS), the company announced in a press release on Jan. 26, 2018.

A year ago, WCS, with complicity from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), was poised to enter into a licensing proceeding to construct and operate a so-called "centralized interim storage facility" (CISF) at its Andrews County, west Texas location. The CISF was proposed to store 40,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel, about half of what currently exists in the country.

However, when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) last June successfully blocked in court WCS's acquisition by rival EnergySolutions of Utah, WCS asked NRC to suspend its CISF licensing proceeding for lack of funds. DOJ argued that the takeover of WCS by EnergySolutions would have created a monopoly on "low-level" radioactive waste disposal in the U.S. The federal court in Delaware agreed.

It is unclear yet whether JFLCO's takeover of WCS will lead to the play button being pushed again on the CISF licensing proceeding.

WCS already operates a national so-called "low-level" radioactive waste dump for all categories, Class A, B, and C.

It has specialized over the years in accepting some of the most controversial and troublesome wastes to be had from across the U.S., including Belgian Congo K-65 ore wastes from the Manhattan Project (which were hauled down from Fernauld, Ohio), and potentially exploding barrels of military plutonium contaminated wastes from Los Alamos.

In addition, JFLCO also owns NorthStar, in which WCS was already a major partner. NorthStar would like to become the go-to company for decommissioning permanent shutdown nuclear power plants in the U.S. NorthStar has already made a major move to purchase the Vermont Yankee shutdown reactor from Entergy Nuclear. NorthStar is very likely also eyeing doing the same at soon-to-close Entergy reactors, such as Pilgrim in MA. At a public open house last year, a reactor operator at Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan, also owned by Entergy, confirmed that NorthStar was also being looked to, to eventually decommission that one too -- a decision Entergy higher ups declined to confirm when directly asked.

In this way, both the "low-level" radioactive waste (LLRW) stream from decommissioning nuclear power plants, as well as the highly radioactive irradiated nuclear fuel (INF) from those and other atomic reactors, could be shipped to the TX/NM border. The LLRWs would be permanently buried at WCS. The INF would supposedly only be stored there, at the surface, on an "interim" basis. But this could easily last a century, if not continue indefinitely -- leading to the risk of WCS becoming a de facto permanent "parking lot dump."

The WCS site is either above, or very near to (and upstream of), the Ogallala Aquifer, North America's single largest. The Ogallala is a critical source of drinking and irrigation water for eight states on the High Plains, stretching from TX to SD. Thus, it is essential for the lives of millions of Americans and Native Americans over a very broad region. The radioactive waste dumping, and storage, at WCS, puts this vital fresh water supply at risk.