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March 18, 2010:

  • Compact Commission Proposes Rules Allowing for Importation of Radioactive Waste to West Texas - Comments Due April 12
    On a 6-2 vote, the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission approved draft rules for publication that would allow approval of radioactive waste imports into West Texas on a case-by-case basis as well as exports from Texas if the currently proposed site is unable to take the wastes. Members of the public now have until April 12th to submit comments on the proposed rules to the Compact Commission.

    Under the proposed rules, either the operator of the licensed low-level radioactive waste site – Waste Control Specialists – or a generator seeking to send their wastes to Texas would seek approval from the Compact Commission for authorization to import the waste for management and disposal. This could include any state, or even potentially, international waste being approved for import into Texas, even when that state was not a “party” to the Texas Compact. Currently only Texas and Vermont are part of the Texas Compact.

    The Compact Commission did add some more restrictive policies to its initial “strawman” such as requiring a report detailing the disposal site’s capacity and the needs of Texas and Vermont generators, as well as a certificate from the TCEQ that the proposed imported waste would meet license conditions. Several individuals and environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, however, objected to the need for the import rule when the site has not even commenced operations and when the needs of Texas and Vermont operators are already contemplated as filling up the capacity authorized under the license.

    In its comments filed this week, the Lone Star Chapter said the Commission should separate the export rule and publish it, but delay any consideration of the import rule or simply pass a rule not allowing import until conditions change and the needs of Vermont and Texas generators are first met. Only last month, the Vermont legislature failed to approve an extension of the Vermont Yankee’s nuclear operations license, meaning the waste from decommissioning the plant may need a place as soon as 2012. In addition, while the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted WCS a license for their waste facility last year, the Sierra Club has appealed the decision to State District Court in Travis County. Finally, the Compact Commission only has an interim executive director and has no technical staff to even review proposed import agreements.

    If the Compact Commission decides to approve the rules, the Sierra Club comments argue that the Compact Commission should ban international waste, only consider allowing the import of waste from non-compact states if the TCEQ first approves a license amendment, and conduct a needs assessment every five years to determine space requirements for Texas and Vermont-generated waste. Without adequate controls, it is likely that Texas would become the de facto national dumping ground for low-level radioactive waste. It is worth noting that WCS has already been importing some out-of-compact waste through its storage license, and Sierra Club maintains that those imports for storage should also be subject to Compact Commission approval as well.

    Copies of the proposed rules can be found at http://www.tllrwdcc.org. Written comments should be submitted to Ms. Margaret Henderson, Interim Executive Director, 3616 Far West Boulevard, Suite 117, #294, Austin, Texas 78731 or by electronic mail to Margaret.henderson@tllrwdcc.org by April 12th.

    A copy of the comments submitted by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club can be found at http://texas.sierraclub.org/Conservation/energy/SCwastecomment20100316.pdf.

The State Capitol E-Report is a monthly electronic update from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club reporting on Texas environmental policy issues of statewide interest. Contact us at: lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org ...Header photo by Susan Heller
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