Why A Small Texas Town Wants Oregon’s Nuclear Waste
Communities from Oregon to New York may be clamoring to get nuclear waste out of their backyards, but one small town in west Texas is actively vying to store the nation’s spent nuclear fuel — at least for the next century or so. “We don’t see it as some big, you know, dangerous, terrible, ominous figure,” said Julia Wallace, executive director of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just another day’s work.” Andrews, Texas, also sees the economic benefits that could come with storing high-level nuclear waste. “This is an industry and area that I think is going to continue to grow, and it’s a need that needs to be met. So I think we’re on to something here,” Wallace said. Andrews is working with the waste management company, Waste Control Specialists, to expand the capacity of their low-level waste facility into consolidated interim storage — temporary storage for high-level waste before it is disposed of or some other use is found. The Department of Energy (DOE) proposed consolidated interim storage as a way to fulfill their obligation to manage the country’s nuclear waste. The DOE wants to start by moving the spent nuclear fuel from 13 shuttered utilities, including the former Trojan Nuclear Plant near Rainier, Oregon, just across the Columbia River from Longview, Washington. But that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
In 2016, Waste Control Specialists applied to store high-level commercial spent nuclear fuel 30 miles west of Andrews, Texas. The company’s facility should be able to take up to 80 percent of the waste currently stored at shut-down reactors across the country. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Even if the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves the application, there are issues of transportation and cost. Additionally, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act allows the government to build one consolidated storage facility, like the one in Andrews, only after construction of a nuclear waste repository has been licensed. If the Texas facility is allowed to temporarily accept nuclear waste, Geoffrey Fettus of the Natural Resources Defense Council has concerns.
I don't know, man. Watching Rick Perry's confirmation hearing yesterday makes me think this man has a plan, and that plan is consolidated interim storage in West Texas.