PUBLISHED IN THE AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN

 

A Texas radioactive waste disposal company will soon seek federal permission to dispose of high-level radioactive waste from around the country.

Waste Control Specialists plans to develop a facility in Andrews County, in West Texas, that could store spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear plants, according to a notice from the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group.

At present, nearly all of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel is stored at the reactor sites where it was generated. Texas’ two nuclear sites house 2,400 tons of spent fuel; all told, there are about 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel stored nationally — enough to cover one football field to a height of approximately 20 feet.

For decades the federal government had collected billions of dollars from utilities, including $700 million from Texas utilities, to pay for disposing the material deep within Nevada’s Yucca Mountain. But in November 2013, after years of quarrels over the Yucca plan, a federal court determined the U.S. government has “no credible plan” to dispose of the high-level waste.

A federal commission has declared that the United States should press on, developing at least an interim site in a state that voluntarily takes the material.

Shipping the material to Texas features high political hurdles, and competition from plans emerging in at least half a dozen states. Environmentalists say they’re concerned that radioactive waste could pollute underground water or cause a catastrophe in transport.

But whoever manages to land the storage facility stands to win the billions of dollars in utility money set aside to store the spent fuel.