EnergyStatewide NewsTexas Sues Nuclear Regulatory Commission Over West Texas Radioactive Waste Storage Facility License

The lawsuit comes after the legislature passed a bill banning the storage of high-level radioactive waste in Texas.
September 23, 2021
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The State of Texas, Governor Greg Abbott, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) over its issuance of a high-level radioactive waste interim storage license for a West Texas facility.

Filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the petitioners request that the court vacate the license ruling it unlawful after the legislature passed a bill to ban such storage in Texas.

That legislation passed during the second special session after a fight over its scope between two West Texas House representatives, Brooks Landgraf (R-Odessa) and Tom Craddick (R-Midland).

Landgraf told The Texan of the lawsuit, “As the state representative for Andrews County, which is where the proposed high-level storage site would be located, I support the state’s lawsuit against the Biden Administration’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

“The Andrews community clearly does not consent to the storage of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste. That is why I filed and passed House Bill 7, which prohibits high-level radioactive waste generated outside of existing Texas reactors from being stored or disposed of anywhere in this state. The Biden Administration has ignored the cries of Texans in its rush to approve this permit application. I’ll continue to do all I can to fight back and represent my constituents.”

The Texan Tumbler

The license, in development since 2016, would allow the facility to store high-level radioactive waste on an interim basis, up to 40 years. Several locations in Texas, such as the state’s two nuclear power plants, already store spent nuclear fuel in the exact same manner that would occur at this Andrews County facility should it be constructed. And that proposed facility would be adjacent to an already operational facility that stores certain classes of low-level radioactive waste.

Decades of failure by the federal government to develop a permanent storage site for the waste presents a bottleneck to come once the country’s aging nuclear plants must be revamped, which will result in a plethora of spent fuel that must be stored and eventually disposed of. America does not recycle its spent fuel like countries such as France.

The firm behind the proposed facility, Interim Storage Partners, declined to comment as the litigation is pending. The NRC also declined to comment.

Abbott came out hard against the license after it was approved earlier this month, saying, “Texas will not become America’s nuclear waste dumping ground.”

This sparked a governor’s race spotlight on the issue when former Texas GOP chair and Abbott primary challenger Allen West criticized the bill, and the governor who signed it, for not going far enough in banning the storage of radioactive materials in Texas.

To date, there have been no disasters caused by the storage or transport of radioactive waste at any level. But concerns among some increased as the date of issuance approached, and the Texas legislature rushed through the prohibition to preempt the license.

Governor Abbott’s office sent the following statement from spokeswoman Renae Eze: “Governor Abbott has been fighting to stop the Biden Administration from dumping highly radioactive waste in west Texas oil fields, which are essential to the energy security of the entire country. That’s why he put it on the special session call for the Legislature to address it and signed a law to stop it. Texas will not become America’s nuclear waste dumping ground, and the lawsuit we filed today will help us protect our state and Texans’ livelihoods.”

For more information about the proposal and surrounding debate, read here.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from the governor’s office and from Rep. Landgraf.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.