Next Stop for Radioactive Waste: Texas

radiological waste storage above ground photo

Low-level radiological waste in concrete casks.

While Yucca Mountain grabs most of the headlines about nuclear waste, there's a new site that's getting little national attention.

On January 14, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted two licenses to Waste Control Specialists "to dispose of low-level radioactive waste from around the country at a West Texas remote site near the New Mexico border."The licenses allow radioactive materials from Department of Energy facilities as well as from universities and power plants to be sent to the site in Andrews County, Texas.

Risks Posed Are Nationwide - Not Well Understood
And this problem doesn't just affect West Texas, either. When the waste site is fully developed, this decision could mean two train-loads of waste each week through 2015 through undisclosed U.S. cities and into this Texas desert facility.

The Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter is very involved in this fight - and they've shared some disturbing facts about this decision. These licenses would allow Waste Control Specialists to bring in more than 28 million cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste. As such, the site would eventually become the largest commercial low-level radioactive waste site in the country, with some waste remaining dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

Cyrus Reed, conservation director of the Lone Star Chapter, said the licenses do have some conditions, but it's still a major problem. For one, the company's license application had an inadequate environmental review, especially related to whether the waste would be able to leech into nearby water sources at some point.

"The review itself said there are a lot of unknowns about this site - about its hydrogeology underneath, its connection to aquifers in the area," Reed explained. He added that not all of the waste sent to the site will be in containers, so there's also some risk of the waste become airborne particles due to it not being sealed.

Reed is also worried that this site could soon become home to radioactive waste from all over the U.S. - not just from Texas and Vermont, as the current licenses say. Our Lone Star Chapter is appealing the decision.

Image credit:via MSNBC, LVirginia Postic / AP

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