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Environmental Groups Express Concern As Proposal For West Texas Nuclear Waste Site Moves Forward

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Andrews County is already home to a low-level nuclear waste facility. Now, it may be used to temporarily store the country's spent, high-level waste. (Photo Courtesy of Waste Control Specialists)

By Mitch Borden

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received some 23,000 comments as it decides whether to approve a temporary high-level nuclear waste storage site in Andrews County.

The company behind the plan is Interim Storage Partners, a subsidiary of Waste Control Specialists and Orano. The group applied for a license from the NRC to store spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants around the U.S.

Officials in Andrews County have said they favor the move. But other Texas cities including Midland, have passed resolutions opposing the move.

The company is asking for a license to store the waste for 40 years, or until a permanent repository is found. Karen Hadden is with the environmental group SEED Coalition. 

“That language is very weak and it means basically there is a risk that the waste could stay forever,” Hadden said on a press call Friday.  

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is finishing the scoping period for the proposal and has received comments from the public on it.

James Parker, an environmental project manager for the NRC, said concerns submitted range from the possible danger of transporting nuclear waste by train to environmental concerns and the potential negative effects on local communities.

After the public comment period on the plan closes Monday, the NRC will move on to crafting an environmental impact statement on the project. The commission is hoping to release the first draft of the report later this year, which the public will also have an opportunity to comment on.

Park says the comments brought up in the scoping period will be addressed and the public will have time to review NRC’s environmental impact statement before the commission moves to the next step of examining ISP’s application.

Currently, there is not a permanent nuclear waste storage site in the U.S.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.