Texas regulators OK expanding nuclear waste site

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 20, 2014 at 4:16 pm •  Published: August 20, 2014

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Depleted uranium from federal energy facilities can be buried at a nuclear-waste dumping site in West Texas, state regulators decided Wednesday.

The 3-0 vote by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality also will triple the Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists facility's capacity of storing low-level radioactive waste from the majority of U.S. states — going from 2.3 million cubic feet to 9 million cubic feet.

Company spokesman Chuck McDonald says the amendment also reduces by $50 million — to $86 million — the amount of money the company is required to have available to fund potential liabilities.

Environmentalists worry about the Andrews County site, about 365 miles west of Dallas, and how the company keeps wanting to bury additional types of waste.

Commissioners made no comment about the amendment before voting. A call seeking comment from commission Chairman Bryan W. Shaw was not immediately returned Wednesday.

McDonald says the depleted uranium, which is a byproduct of nuclear power plants, is classified as low-level and will come from federal energy facilities

The amendment provides "the U.S. Department of Energy with a much-needed option as it looks for safe, secure disposal of orphaned waste that it has been storing for up to 40 or 50 years," McDonald said, noting that the amendment syncs up the license with the actual disposal operations taking place.

But experts say depleted uranium gets more radioactive as time passes and if disposed of improperly could pose health risks, such as cancer. And environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Public Citizen, have long worried about the local geology and contamination of underground water sources near the site, which can accept low-level nuclear waste from compact states Texas, Vermont and 36 other states.

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