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Hughes Family Backs Out of Nuclear Waste Site Plan

Near a section of land in Culberson County owned by the Hughes family that was, until recently, a possible site for a planned nuclear waste storage facility. The Hughes family has backed out of that plan. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

The Hudspeth County Herald recently reported that the family whose property was slated for a planned nuclear waste storage site has backed out of the plan.

We spoke to the Herald's Drew Stuart about the development.

The Hughes family, which includes Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Commissioner Dan Allen Hughes, Jr., owns land north of Kent in Culberson County that was identified by Hughes, Jr.'s fellow commissioner Bill Jones as the proposed site for a long-term nuclear waste site.

The Herald reports:

In an interview with the Herald Tuesday (Sept. 8), Dan Allen Hughes Jr. said his family had “weighed all the factors” and decided to “withdraw our property from consideration,” in a plan by AFCI-Texas to store high-level radioactive waste in Culberson County. AFCI and Culberson County officials had identified Hughes family land as a likely spot for the waste site, but Hughes said his family “had never committed to it.”

“We were contacted, we looked at it and explored it – and we decided it was not the right thing for our family and our property,” Hughes said.

Jones and his company AFCI Texas pitched Culberson County officials on the plan to store used nuclear fuel rods from the nation's power plants after being turned away by other counties in the region.

It's not clear whether this development means the plan will be abandoned altogether.

Bill Jones and Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. did not respond to requests for an interview. Will Hughes - a Hughes family representative - also did not respond to a request for comment. Culberson County Judge Carlos Urias did not return a call left at his office on Tuesday.

In a Facebook message, Van Horn Mayor Glenn Humphries indicated the plan may not be a lost cause quite yet, but that either way, the city is not supporting or opposing the idea.

"I have also heard there are other neighboring ranches requesting consideration," Humphries said. "The issue will not be considered at the City level since the territory in question is not inside city limits."

Lucy Furlong, a rancher at the Long X Ranch with land in Culberson and Reeves Counties, said she's pleased by the news that the Hughes family has backed out.

"We're very happy, we want to keep a close eye on things and make sure none else tries to sell their land for this purpose," she said.

Furlong says a small group of ranchers in the area have been consulting with attorneys and considering ways to stop the plan.

Meg Davis, an Austin resident with family landholdings in the area, has founded the opposition group  Ranchers CoalitionShe brought her concerns about the nuclear waste plan to Hughes, Jr. and Jones directly at an annual TPWD Commission public hearing in August. She also praised the news.

"We're really relieved," she said. "We appreciate that, for whatever reason, Mr. Hughes has decided to pull that land off the table, because without the land, a proposed facility can't happen. So I feel like it's at least one more step in the right direction."

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.