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West Texas site seeks to bury depleted uranium

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 14, 2014 at 7:11 pm •  Published: June 14, 2014

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — The company operating Texas' only radioactive waste dump site is asking state regulators to allow disposal of depleted uranium and triple the capacity of a burial site that accepts waste from dozens of states.

Although Waste Control Specialists says the uranium stored at its West Texas site would have only low-level radioactivity, opponents say the proposal would get the company another step closer to handling more dangerous material that wasn't part of the original license. The company has already been in talks with county officials about high-level waste disposal.

Meanwhile, the Dallas-based business has also asked the state to reduce the money it's required to have available to fund potential liability at the site — to about $86 million from $136 million.

"The public should be paying attention, but they're not," said state Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat who has taken an active role in monitoring how the state handles radioactive waste. "We have less and less financial assurances and greater threat for more harm."

The depleted uranium, a by-product of enriched uranium that fuels nuclear power plants, would come from U.S. Department of Energy facilities, said company spokesman Chuck McDonald.

Although the uranium would still be classified as low-level, experts say the substance gets more radioactive as time passes and if disposed of improperly could pose health risks such as cancer.

To ensure safety, the depleted uranium would have to be disposed of at the greatest depth possible, said Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

No date has been set for when the state's three environmental commissioners will consider the amendment.

City officials in Andrews, about 30 miles east of the site, said they weren't familiar enough with the proposal to comment.

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