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Radioactive Waste Report Released, Public Citizen Recommends ‘No’ Vote on Legislation
Former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Claims Unfunded Taxpayer Liability
AUSTIN, TX - April 28 - A report released today by Public Citizen criticizes radioactive waste importation legislation because there is risk of an unfunded taxpayer liability, risk from a radioactive waste truck accident, risk of contaminating the nation’s largest aquifer, and risk that there won’t be adequate space for Texas and Vermont reactors’ and other radioactive waste. Bills HB 2184, introduced by Trion Lewis, and SB 1504, introduced by Kel Seliger, which would authorize the importation of out of state radioactive wastes currently are being debated in the Texas legislature.
In an ongoing, if unexpected, alliance, consumer and environmental group Public Citizen was joined by Debra Medina, a conservative grassroots organizer and former Republican gubernatorial candidate, at a press conference Thursday to release the scathing report about the impacts of radioactive waste importation on Texas.
“HB 2184 and SB 1504 divorce risk from profit in the Texas radioactive waste industry,” Medina said at the press conference, which was held in the State Capitol. “This kind of crony capitalism is far too common, and I can’t think of a worse industry than radioactive waste to take risk away from the companies involved and put it on taxpayers.”
Medina’s concern about taxpayer liability is spelled out in the report produced by Public Citizen’s Texas office. It finds that if the Andrews County dump site were to leak, the cleanup cost could be anywhere from three to 50 times the amount set aside by the site operator, Waste Control Specialists (WCS). The report cites two examples of radioactive leaks – one in 1984 in near Karnes City in South Texas between San Antonio and Corpus Christi that garnered a $384 million cleanup bill, and another in 1983 at a site in New York called West Valley with an estimated cleanup cost of $5 billion.
“The people of Texas are at risk from a leak at the site, which is located dangerously near the Ogallala Aquifer and is only 150 feet from known groundwater sources,” said Ali Rawaf, a researcher with Public Citizen who authored the report, “The Repository and the Risks: A Report on the Andrews County Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site.” “What’s more, under HB 2184 or SB 1504 we would expect a substantial increase in radioactive transportation accidents, and the state is simply not prepared to deal with that possibility at an emergency response level or at a financial liability level. More than 4,000 trucks a year carrying radioactive waste will soon be rumbling down Texas highways, and if this legislation passes it will mean even more trucks spreading radioactive risk through the state.”
The report claims that in the event of a transportation accident involving radioactive waste, Texas would have only $500,000 available to cover emergency response, health care and property damage costs. Public Citizen says that amount is far too little.
The report also claims that the dump site being constructed in Andrews County does not have adequate capacity to receive waste from outside the Texas-Vermont Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact, which was designed to limit importation of radioactive wastes. It cites a 2000 study by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and a 2010 estimate by the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, both showing the site to be short on capacity for the Texas and Vermont waste it was originally intended to handle.
“We are recommending to members of the Texas Legislature that they vote against SB 1504 and HB 2184 and not allow importation until the risks have been addressed and we are assured by a new study by TCEQ that adequate capacity for our reactors will exist at the site,” said Trevor Lovell, nuclear program coordinator with Public Citizen’s Texas office. “It has taken 30 years to start construction on a site for our own waste. SB 1504 would likely send us back to the drawing board, and HB 2184 certainly would.”