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Expanded W. Texas nuke waste site OK’d

Burial pit at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas, would be expanded under legislation passed Tuesday by the Texas State Senate. (AP Photo/Waste Control Specialists, File)
Burial pit at Waste Control Specialists near Andrews, Texas, would be expanded under legislation passed Tuesday by the Texas State Senate. (AP Photo/Waste Control Specialists, File)
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow a West Texas nuclear waste facility to import materials with greater radioactivity from other states while encouraging the export of lower-level materials out of Texas.

The “omnibus low-level radioactive waste bill” by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would keep the maximum volume and radioactivity allowed at the site the same and only changes what materials are stored at Dallas-based Waste Control Specialist’s 1,300-acre radioactive waste burial ground.

The nuclear waste dump site in Andrews County, whose majority owner is billionaire and GOP mega-donor Harold Simmons, accepted its first low-level radioactive waste about a year ago, ending an expensive and years-long effort by the company to bury materials from medical, research and industrial activities and from nuclear power plants. Also buried there are PCB-tainted sludge dredged from the Hudson River in New York and tons of Cold War-era radioactive waste from a former uranium-processing plant in Ohio.

Environmental groups have opposed the company’s pressing for various types of waste to bury in the remote scrub brush terrain about 375 miles west of Dallas.

Originally the site was to handle low-level waste from a couple states but last legislative session lawmakers approved allowing waste from more than three dozen states to be buried at the facility.

Seliger’s bill seeks to promote sending low-level waste, known as Class A, out of Texas for burial and ups the annual curie limit for the next two years from 220,000 to 300,000, so that states outside the compact wanting to dispose of hotter waste, known as Class B and C, can.

The company, Andrews County and the state stand to make more money from the hotter waste. The county receives 5 percent and the state 25 percent of the company’s revenues quarterly.

The Senate removed a provision that limited Texas residents of countries around Andrews County from challenging permits to the plant granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The nearest residential area is Eunice, New Mexico, just 10 miles away. But the bill would limit all challenges to permit decisions at the site.

The bill now goes to the House, where a similar bill is under consideration.

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Senate Bill 791: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=SB791

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