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Monday, November 12, 2018

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Our Energy secretary could ship treated nuclear waste from our nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site to a Texas nuclear dump near an aquifer supplying water from northern Texas to South Dakota. The dump was opened by one of Secretary Rick Perry’s largest campaign donors.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, signed by former President Ronald Reagan, was written to prevent potential disasters and mandates that the Department of Energy must send high-level waste to a network of underground tunnels and rooms where it can safely decay over millions of years.

Republicans and Trump’s new assistant secretary for environmental management, Anne Marie White, who did consulting work for the company that operates the dump, want to rewrite federal regulations to say that some high-level nuclear waste isn’t really high-level nuclear waste so it can be stored elsewhere.

“It certainly raises questions about potential conflicts of interest,” said Tom Carpenter, the executive director of Hanford Challenge, a Seattle watchdog group.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who died in 2013 at age 82, owned Waste Control Specialists. Simmons and his wife, Annette, gave Perry’s campaigns more than $1.3 million.

Waste Control Specialists got state licenses in Texas in 2008 and 2009 to dispose of radioactive waste in a dump in Andrews County on the Texas-New Mexico border, adjacent to the giant URENCO USA nuclear enrichment facility at Eunice, N.M. Perry, then Texas governor, appointed the three commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who approved the licenses.

The dump is over or near the Ogallala Aquifer, depending on whether you believe the water table boundaries of the company or others. The dump is also in an earthquake hazard zone.

Waste Control Specialists wants to take radioactive waste from the Hanford nuclear weapons complex in southeast Washington state, one of the most contaminated places on earth. About 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste produced during World War II and the Cold War is stored in 177 underground tanks.

Hanford was created during the Manhattan Project in World War II and made the plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.

Waste Control Specialists says it could save the federal government up to $16.5 million. The dump would take waste after cesium is removed and It is encased in grout. In December, 3 gallons of waste, or about 0.0000053% of the waste in the underground tanks, was encapsulated in grout as a test.

Republicans have previously reclassified nuclear waste as less dangerous. In 2004, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) attached a rider to the defense authorization bill so the Department of Energy didn’t have to remove radioactive sludge from underground storage tanks in South Carolina and Idaho.


Featured image: Hazardous and radioactive waste at the Andrews, Texas, dump is encapsulated in a liner and cover system, featuring a seven-foot-thick liner system which includes a one-foot-thick layer of reinforced concrete, and an-RCRA compliant geosynthetic layer. In addition, all of the waste is buried within the highly impermeable red-bed clay formation that extends hundreds of feet beneath the deepest layer of waste. (WCS photo)