Billionaire Plans to Build Huge Toxic Waste Dump in Texas

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Photo by Mad House Photography via Flickr CC

For six years, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons has been working to get permits to build a dump that can store up to 60 million cubic feet of low-level nuclear waste. By lobbying hard (and donating heavily to politicians' campaign funds), his company, Waste Control Specialists, has managed to get the state legislature to pass a law allowing private companies to deal with radioactive waste. Now, his company is seeking two licenses that would let it open up a Texas-sized nuclear waste dump for materials from reactors, hospitals, and weapons programs. Opposition to the Dump Site Includes Concern About Water Contamination
Mother Jones reports, "State engineers and geologists strongly objected to licensing the the dump. Concerned that radioactive material could contaminate groundwater, three staffers at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality resigned rather than sign off on the licenses."

And the fact that private companies should not be disposing of this kind of material without serious government regulations (Mother Jones reports that the licenses for WSC "don't need detailed approval from federal nuclear regulators because the dump wouldn't handle the highest grades of radioactive waste") is only part of the issue. The dump would also sit near a water table, and in 2007, four engineers and geologists suggested the site not be approved because groundwater intrusion into the disposal units would be "highly likely."

Pushing Political Buttons for A Nuclear Waste Dump
WSC, on the other hand, states that no contamination of the aquifer is possible. But of course, it's in their best interest to say just that. As Mother Jones reports, there's is a fat market for radioactive waste disposal, since 36 states lack a permanent location for storage, and Simmons has lobbied to allow other states to petition to have their waste shipped off to his facility in Texas.

The truly frightening part is the amount of political leverage Simmons has for pushing this through, despite serious concerns from experts. Six out of the seven members of the Texas Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, which approved the import of nuclear waste from other states, were appointed by Governor Rick Perry, who received $250,000 from Simmons for his campaign in 2008.

Christopher Helman of Forbes
sums it up best: "It just doesn't look good. Like I said before, properly regulated nuclear dumps are not terrible in and of themselves. But when politically tainted commissions override the concerns of hydrologists willing to quit to make themselves heard, it's probably time for Texans to demand an independent investigation of the true risks of Simmons' nuke dump."

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