For Immediate Release
(Friday, September 5, 2008): For More Information:
Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086 or 512-477-1729 Donna Hoffman, 512-477-1729 or 512-299-5776
Sierra Club Concerned:
Andrews County National Radioactive
(Austin) -- Members of the Sierra Club from Andrews, Texas and nearby Eunice, New Mexico will be attending the required public meeting in the City of Andrews on the draft license proposing a massive radioactive waste facility that would allow the applicant Waste Control Specialists to import up to 28 million cubic feet and 9.5 million curies of state and federal “low-level” radioactive waste to Andrews County. Eventually, the site could become the largest commercial radioactive waste site in the country.
The Public Meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Monday, September 8th, 2008 at the Andrews High School Little Theater located at 1400 NW Avenue K, Andrews, Texas.
The public meeting will allow members of the public to both ask questions of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which has issued a draft license for the facility, and make statements, raise concerns, and even support or oppose the facility. The proposed facility itself is located some 30 miles west of Andrews, a stone’s throw from the border with New Mexico.
“We recognize that the political leadership and many members of the community in the City of Andrews is in favor of this draft license,” noted Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “But our members in Texas and New Mexico are concerned about a license application full of holes, inaccuracies and inconsistencies and a geologic site that is not as safe as the applicant claims when dealing with radioactive wastes that will literally last hundreds of thousands of years.”
Waste Control Specialists is a subsidiary of Valhi Inc.,
owned by Harold Simmons, a major political donor to Texas
and national politicians and campaigns. In 2003, the Legislature – heavily
lobbied by WCS – passed the legislation that would allow
the company to have a 15 year-license to dispose of radioactive
waste. The license can be extended, but once the license
ends, the state inherits the Texas “compact” waste for hundreds
of thousands of years. In other words, WCS gets the profits
and Texas gets the nuclear liabilities.
The TCEQ staff have pointed to inconsistencies and a lack of detailed information in the license, but rather than deny the license, or insist on additional information, they have recommended approval with certain conditions for additional information before construction occurs.
Once a license is approved, it is extremely difficult to stop the importation of radioactive wastes to the site.
Concerns being raised by area residents and the Sierra Club include:
• The fact that the water table is only 14 feet from the bottom of the proposed unit, and there are considerable inconsistencies and uncertainties about the depth of the water table near the facility boundaries; • General disagreements and inconsistencies within the application about the precise nature of the saturated zones of the geologic formations underlying the site; • Failure to look at all potential accidents, particularly as four different kinds of waste will be coming to the proposed site; • Uncertainty about the location of the “dryline” of the Ogallala-Antlers-Gatuña geological formation near the site; • Concern about the impact of high winds and occasional high rain events, particularly at times of loading and unloading of wastes; • Security concerns about a very dangerous waste stream; • Potential impacts on workers, given recent reports that the company has failed to have an adequate radiation safety program.
“With such uncertainties, this license has no business being granted,” Reed noted. “The TCEQ and WCS should not play with the health and welfare of a community desperate for jobs and economic development.”
Reed said that it was likely the group would seek a contested case hearing on the proposed license before written comments are due on September 16, 2008.