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More news is located under overview at the bottom of this page in yellow (updated 02-12-2003)
Tell Bivins has released Senate Bill 824 which again promises to make WCS rich at our expense!
Contact your representatives and tell them that you are opposed to SB 824,
and other measures which would place a radioactive waste dump on Texas soil.
To help folks do so, I updated the RadTexas website with a list of contacts.
Check out the Legislative Action Page and voice your opposition.
Texas Radiation Online - RadTexas.org - Website Launched, Jan 2003.
From last October, I added pictures of the site from different angles (click here to view the collection. Also, a composite closeup map was made combining aerial photo, USGS 1996 topo, and site diagrams from the TDH files. Click Click here for this close-up diagram of the site (356k) New maps from the TWDB have been added to the hydrology section. Now that the RadTexas.org material is up, I have excerpted a historical overview of Andrews which discusses the County prior to the waste wars and how WCS's reputation is nothing new around the State Capitol. Below is an overview of the Andrews County issue, followed by site updates.
The site is at a ranch known as Windmill Hill in Andrews County, Texas. Not only is this disposal site located above two aquifers, (the Ogallala and the Dockum), but there are also aquifer recharge features on the property. The Ogallala aquifer ranges under 7 other states: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota; demonstrating that opposing the WCS facility is not just a "not-in-my-backyard" stance.
The presence of the Ogallala, and a 100-year floodplain which extends through the facility boundary, are both denied by WCS. The site is also located within 10 miles of the feedwaters of the Lower Colorado River, which flow through Austin 12 blocks from the State Capitol. This subject has never been raised in any discussion on site suitability.
To date since counted, there are over 18 seismic epicenters within a 30 mile radius of the disposal site. Of these 18, the latest occurred June 2, 2001 at a depth of 5 km, with a 3.3 magnitude. The largest seismic event occurred January 2, 1992 approximately 15 miles from the site with a 5.0 magnitude. (the USGS Natl Earthquake Information Center said 5.5 magnitude) Eight of these events happened in 1976 alone, which simply cannot be dismissed as random activity.
The TDH never conducted an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the WCS Andrews facility. What was used instead was a report which WCS submitted and which contains some serious flaws. It denies the presence of the Ogallala aquifer on the property, claiming that each of the other geological studies done on the site have confused the Ogallala Formation with "Antler's Sandstone." The Antler aquifer, of which Antler's Sandstone is indigenous to, is in southeastern Oklahoma and northeast Texas over 300 miles away. It is also in the cretaceous, and not tertiary layer as the Ogallala is. A extremely detailed geological survey was conducted of the site in 1993 as part of it's application with the TNRCC. This study is included with the rest of WCS's file at the TDH. It not only unequivocably proves the presence of the aquifers at the WCS, but also the 100-year floodplain. The report WCS submitted as an site assesment makes references to this report, yet unscientifically attempts to debunk its most important findings by scratching out the word Ogallala and replacing it with Antlers Sandstone.
Firstly, "low-level" radioactive waste (LLRW) is a misleading term. LLRW has nothing to do with how toxic the waste is, or the length of it's radioactive lifetime. LLRW actually does include control rods, filters, sludges, and resins from nuclear reactors as well as entire power plants when they are decommissioned and dismantled. Industry jargon is designed to mislead the public when it comes to nuclear classification.
WCS has a radioactive materials license to process and store radioactive waste as well as a separate facility with a hazardous materials disposal license. WCS can receive LLRW for processing and/or storage, and can dispose of "exempted" LLRW. Material can be labeled as "exempted" if found to radiate particles at a small enough amount to be deemed "below regulatory concern." Once LLRW has been exempted it is outside the regulatory restrictions placed upon radioactive materials, and can be transferred to the onsite hazardous waste landfill for disposal. [The requirements for exempt material are defined in 25 TAC § 285.251(c) (1), which is the Texas counterpart to 10 CFR 40.13(a)]
For disposal, WCS has been receiving quite a bit of exempted waste over the years, and it is one of the sites biggest selling points to waste generators, including the Department of Defense. This is because it is cheaper to dilute waste and dump it into a landfill than to pay the high prices of a licensed radioactive waste disposal facility. This material is not placed in a separate area of the hazardous waste dump, and to date, neither the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (formerly TNRCC) or the Texas Bureau of Radiation Control has been keeping track of the amounts of exempted radioactive waste which are disposed of at WCS. It is estimated that at least 120,000 cubic feet of this waste has been dumped at Andrews.
One of the things WCS does is store waste onsite. During 2001-2002, WCS succeeded in obtaining NRC permission for increased volumes of Special Nuclear Material, which is the most volatile subcategory of low-level radioactive wastes, including materials containing fissionable plutonium and uranium which aren't source materials themselves. (the NRC can designate any material as Special Nuclear Material under certain provisions, such as in the interest of National Security) (USC 42 §§ 2014, 2071, NRC.)
WCS has been trying to obtain a license for radioactive material disposal for years, but Texas law prohibits a private company from operating a dump. WCS uses a strategy of inching it's way as close as possible by attempting to obtaining license amendments and intensely lobbying the Texas legislature. Some feel that the buildup of disposed exempted wastes may be a ploy to charge that radioactive waste is already disposed of there, as an excuse for future conversion to a full disposal license. In addition, WCS is also seeking a separate type of radioactive disposal license for what is called 11e2 byproduct waste.
Byproduct wastes is generated under conditions of uranium ore milling, where wastes known as tailings are produced, and in the refinement of uranium from that ore. Tailings are slated for cleanup under a program called the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project (UMTRA). In addition, 11e2 byproduct waste also originates from Cold War bomb development projects known as the Manhattan Project, which were conducted at sites across the country. A project to clean up this waste is called the Formerly Utilized Site Remedial Action Program, which is run by the Army Corp of Engineers, who has even been known to send this material to municipal landfills when authorized to do so.
and other related public records
Waste Control Specialists is owned by a larger company called Valhi. Valhi is controlled by a man named Harold Simmons, who has been known as the second richest man in Texas. Since Valhi also owns National Lead Industries, one of the worst polluters in the US, Simmons has also been called the 'king of superfund sites'.
Valhi and Simmons give millions in campaign contributions to Texas representatives. Simmons was 2nd biggest donor ($90,000) and #1 fundraiser in the Bush for governor campaign. He also was a large donor in two of Jeb Bush's Florida campaigns. Through Contran, another company in the Simmons' empire, millions more is also funneled to GOPAC and the GOP in soft money contributions to influence the political process on a national level. The Houston Chronicle stated Simmons personally was one of the primary contributors to the Bush presidential campaign. Campaign contributions for the year 2000 include $70,000 for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, $350,000 for Sen. Phil Gramm, and $211,000 for Gov Rick Perry. Just prior to the 2001 legistlature, he gave $10,000 to Sen. Buster Brown, Chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
By this November, Simmons contributions to the 2002 Texas election cycle include: $201,000 more for Gov Perry, $8000 for Lt. Gov Dewherst, $10,000 for Atty Gen Cornyn, $20,000 to Comptroller Rylander, $9500 for Commissioner candidates, $5000 each to Supreme Court candidates Schneider and Wainwright, over $11,500 to 10 House candidates, and over $12,500 to 10 Senate candidates. Suprisingly, Simmons also gave at least $8000 to democrats running for Senate including Wollens, Cain, and West
Not only has Simmons been in court by the US government several times for violating campaign contribution laws, but he also has been taken to court by his daughters for making illegal contributions in the names of his own family members without their consent. (He settled that lawsuit for $50 million)
Both Gayle Norton (Secretary of the Interior), and Dick Cheney (the Vice-President) were previously employed by Valhi. Norton was an attorney and lobbyist for Valhi, defending Natl Lead Industries in lawsuits involving lead paint poisoning and schoolchildren. Cheney, who is well-known as having been the former CEO of Halliburton when primarily owned by Valhi, presented President Bush's energy plan. (Halliburton's subsidiary Brown and Root has been heavily involved in Comanche Peak and STNP in Texas, but is nationally is quite involved in nukes, including nuclear submarine manufacturing.)
Left to right: Harold Simmons, George W Bush, Gayle Norton, Dick Cheney.
WCS's reputation at the Texas Capitol, and thier infamous lawsuit against the DOE
The state of Texas currently is under a failing agreement to dispose "low-level" waste from Maine and Vermont. Referred to as the Texas Compact, there still isn't a disposal site designated for this purpose, for which proponents have been trying to assign for years. A nuclear waste dump in Sierra Blanca was prevented by a tremendous amount of hard work by Texas activists. Ever since WCS's Andrews County site was operational, it has been the hope of legislators and others to enable a compact dump there. As of last year, Maine has dropped out of the Compact, and the Compact itself is up for renewal in US Congress in 2003.
Every legislative session, there is a push by lawmakers to impose language into state policy to allow for an increase in radioactive waste disposal activity, often using the Compact as an excuse. In 2001, a bill mandating a state-managed LLRW facility was amended to bring waste from outside of the compact, and ordered the creation of a second dump exclusively for Department of Energy wastes. When wastes arrive onsite they would already be by law the property of the State, enabling the dumpers to bring in the waste and leave with all the money they made, or file bankruptcy without liability. State regulation and maintenance would of course be paid by the taxpayers,
The bill passed the Texas Senate. Senator Bivins, who introduced the amendment and represents Andrews County, claimed there was no aquifer present in Andrews. This drew strong protest from the gallery as four people were arrested for speaking out. Later, it was defeated in calendar's committee for the House agenda but at the last minute a ridiculous attempt to tag it on another bill was made that even the House sponsor of the bill found absurd. The 1541 bill was thus defeated, but as usual, proponents will come back to try again next time.
There are other concerns we Texans have regarding radioactive waste, and a big one is transport. Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site in New Mexico has been sending shipments for some years, and Yucca Mountain is scheduled to send much more. This emphasizes the issue of transportation on our highways and our railroads. It is believed that emergency responders (such as EMS, Fire Departments, and Emergency Management offices) are simply not equipped to handle an accident of this nature.
We are assured that these transports are foolproof, with satellite-assistance for the drivers, however, in the last two years, a truck went miles off-route on New Mexico's highways for miles unnoticed when the satellite system failed; two accidents happened a month apart near August 2002. People are right to be concerned, as the NRC states, "since the radiation emitted from a container cannot be reduced to zero...the transport of radioactive materials will always result in some population exposure." DOE documents show that between 1971 and 1994 there were 306 accidents involving 3,649 containers of "low-level" radioactive waste. Of these, 236 containers were damaged and 149 resulted in an unspecified amount of radiation being released into the environment. In August 2001, a 22-ton shipment of waste from a Illinois gaseous diffusion plant headed for Andrews, was lost for nearly a month and found dumped on a North Texas cattle ranch near Oklahoma piled on plastic and covered with dirt.
This website was developed in response to WCS gaining its current radioactive materials license in 1998. There was no information resource available online discussing what was going on at that time in Andrews which was sufficient to fight the rising tide of the WCS's lobby. Although some made small warnings of what was to come, the victory over a dump in Sierra Blanca dump remained in the public's mind, and hardly anyone I talked to on the street had even heard of WCS's dump in Andrews.
I started placing what I could on this website from open records, newspaper clippings, etc, I got from friends who had also been following the issue. An information resource for a new movement had to be developed, and soon after project development, George W Bush was elected president with hardly a mention of his ties to Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons and the waste industry. For some time, the site had been neglected. Prior, during and after the 77th legislature, new time had become available to devote to the project, as layoffs erased my day job. New research added new content, and the site was also redesigned with a new look.
The next year arrived with more hiring freezes and fewer jobs, so new investigation was added, and another website project was developed to overcome the problem of public information with Texas nukes generally, that being the new RadTexas website. Originally it was designed as my online book, but needed to be more available in time for the 78th Texas Legislature. Whereas WCS spend millions of dollars to bully its way around the law, these two websites have managed to bring the news to the public without even having a 501(c)(3) status or taking measurable donations or financial backing.
We would like to see waste transport routes taken out of Texas, and waste from other states kept out of our state's borders entirely. Our safety and our well-being are threatened when we become a dumping ground and processing station for the nations atomic waste. Ultimately, it is in our interest to stop nuclear power as well as decrease the generation of waste materials inside of our state. In the wake of the latest terrorist attacks, legitimate concern has been raised that nuclear power plants will be the next target -- yet another reason that we would like Texas plants decommissioned.
We have a viable megawatt alternative to nuclear power in wind energy, and while nuclear power makes up a small percentage of our State's power generation yet charges our public utility partners 40% of our electric bills to pay for these plants, we can now even more strongly call for removing this bloating liability from our city, county, and state budgets! We don't have to pay for this and can obtain cheap energy from wind generation- nonpoluting, renewable power.
Scientific data on the site can be found in the geological/hydrological section; materials obtained from the Texas Dept of Health and TNRCC about what WCS can legally do is in the open records section. Some articles from magazines and newspapers will be found in the journalistic history section, ranging from overviews to small articles of significance. The miscellaneous section contains important materials which don't fit into other categories, and other sites holds resources online for those interested in information on all aspects of nuclear energy and the alternatives to it. I also put in some search forms for the user to conveniently look up data while viewing our pages. These choices will be at the top of each of the main menu pages. Now that it is available, I urge folks to utilize the RadTexas website for thier online research. There, the links to other websites are in a more refined form, and I can cover alot more topics than I could do with the Andrews website.
Thanks for checking this issue out,
- Tristan Mendoza,
- Author, Researcher, and Director of
- Texas Radiation Online - RadTexas.org and
- The AndrewsNuclearWasteDump.org Project
WCS's Own Website is back up after months of downtime, and more frightening as ever. It claims they can recieve greater-than-class C (GTCC) (the nastiest waste class of "low-level" waste), and remote handled transuranic waste (RH-TRU) for "long term storage." "Remote handled", unlike "contact handled", must be only touched by machinery- humans in protective suits wont do. A majority of Greater-Than Class C also requires being remote handled, and in fact, the categorization of TRU waste is specific to DOE classification.
In other words, waste which is GTCC and is from a DOE site is separated out into thier own category, TRU waste. Anything outside the DOE is simply GTCC. This makes for an important point since what WCS is advertising is that they now are storing RH-TRU waste (americium), but in actuality it is just GTCC from Gulf-Nuclear's cleanup in Houston. The only reason they would possibly do something like this is to attract DOE clients and bids. There has been strong evidence WCS may be attempting to become a companion site to WIPP which specializes in TRU waste disposal. WIPP has been criticized for not having the needed capacity, like Yucca Mountain. WCS is also selling that it can now vitrify waste (a special enclosing of waste in glass, primarily to isolate plutonium from being used), which would seem to indicate they are also shooting for a contract with Pantex, which is weapons manufacturing and plutonium storage central for the US nuclear stockpile. WCS may again seek a disposal license from the federal government and deny State oversight. (2-10-2003)
Here are some sections of RadTexas.org that might help:
-- The History of WCS
-- An Overview of Waste Types
The new website, RadTexas.org v1.0 has been released!
I am proud to announce the completion of a project which was drafted after the last legislative session. Texas Radiation Online, aka RadTexas.org provides an overview of uranium mining, power plants, nuclear weapons and plutonium storage, waste history, and more. It also has RadBasics curriculum covering types of radiation, health effects of radiation, the process of decay and halflife, the types of radioactive waste, and the common isotopes found in this waste. The sum of the chapters is over 100 pages, and it includes a glossary of terms which is itself over 100 additional pages long. In writing this new material, I had hoped to give a more complete picture of the nuclear problem in Texas, for which there has been no other collected online reference for. A much more detailed historical account of WCS and Andrews County is provided- please be sure to check it out if you want to read more on the bad guys. Eventually, this website will be incorporated into the new entity, but the AndrewsNuclearWasteDump.org address will continue to direct to the proper section. I hope this new creation helps your organizations in facing the difficult session ahead.
The Texas Legislature has arrived, and the eyes of Texas are upon it, waiting for the radioactive waste legislation to be released. Two bills are expected to be released this session. Warren Chisum will once again try to spoonfeed Texas environmentalists a waste dump called assured isolation- which seems more benign, yet is actually more insideous since it provides deregulation in siting criteria and monitoring, and passes itself off as an alternative to disposal. Teel Bivins will again propose the Moon and the stars for WCS, allowing them to bring in huge amounts of DOE waste.
WCS wants the legislature to gift it with a full disposal license so it can make millions off of the huge amount of DOE waste - an estimated 249 million cubic feet of waste for 2000-2010 alone. That's 441 times what Texas would dispose of over a 10 year period and 92 times what the Texas Compact was estimated to bring over 35 years.
WCS has also not been opposed to hosting what is called an "assured isolation" waste disposal site for the same reason. Although assured isolation is played off as a grey area between disposal and storage, it is by historical analysis leaning towards a type of unregulated disposal facility that "could be sited anywhere in west Texas" despite environmental problems. The idea itself is not officially covered under federal law, and since Texas statutorily bases its radioactive material laws on existing federal law and the NRC rules, the DOE may be the only entity which can ultimately license such a facility. Thus, WCS, when obtaining an assured isolation license from the DOE or the State of Texas, will argue that assured isolation is a form of disposal- it again this way will seek a disposal license from the federal government and deny State oversight. Result: DOE allows WCS to exploit the scenario by gifting them with an bona fide commercial disposal contract.
This session, we hope to stop a new Barnwell from being placed in Texas, but will also be resisting an assured isolation experiment taking place either. Maine dropped out of the Texas Compact, and Texas waste does not require a Texas waste dump.
After eight years of begging "can we have a waste dump?, can we have a waste dump?, can we have a waste dump?" WCS resembles young children asking over and over and over again for a toy the parents refuse to purchase for it, the sheer noise of nagging, with campaign contribution bribes, make our representatives and State agencies look like puppets, playing in to the charade, by changing the law for them. By law, a private disposal facility must legally be closed by transfering ownership to the State of Texas. Texas taxpayers will be responsible for watching over the waste for eternity while WCS profits and leaves in less than a few decades from original license.
Opposing WCS and a Texas Dump is a bipartisan move- It is damaging to the republican party to support such a popularly corrupt person as Harold Simmons on this endeavor. It also amounts to liberal spending and violates the tenets of fiscal conservatism to keep financing the nuclear power plants when Texas is loosing billions of dollars in revenue from City budgets. When Texas switches to cheaper electricity it will build revenue rather than loose it. Removing the porkbarrel of these plants also solves the waste problem- a dump promises to incorporate liberal spending when the site closes by transfering the property title to State ownership, as the company leaves the State with their profits unscathed. (02-05-2003)
Here are some sections of RadTexas.org that might help understand current affairs:
-- The History of WCS
-- The Obsolete Texas Compact
-- Assured Isolation- The Public Relations Dump
-- Waste Amounts: Comparing DOE Waste and Texas Waste (441 Times the waste from Texas)
-- An Overview of Texas Waste History
-- An Overview of Waste Types
In December 2002, The Radwaste Four were found guilty.
Added pictures of the site from different angles. Click here to view the collection. (10-14-2002)
Click here for a detailed map of the area
(356k, aerial and topo: USGS 1996, site boundary other information: TDH license file) (10-12-2002)
New maps from the TWDB have been added to the hydrology section (09-18-2002)
Susan Lee Solar passed away on Feb 13, 2002. Susan poured so much work into her activism that I could not pretend to give it liberty here. There is a memorial website that can be found at http://www.aimproductions.com/SusanLee, and I hope that you will visit it.
As reported in the public records section of this website, more 'licence-creep' is underway: as of January 10, 2002 the NRC has approved possession of Special Nuclear Material by WCS in Andrews Co. This has been arranged by trading imposition of mass limits with concentration limits. Please see the Open Records section for details on these developments. The 11(e)2 Byproduct waste issue is still up-in-the-air: WCS is trying to decide whether it is cost effective or not for them to blow a ton of money on attorneys and lobbyists to change Texas law for thier own purposes for this one.
In August, WCS submitted a motion to change the Texas Health and Safety Code to automate the approval process of the disposal of exempted low-level waste. Disposal of this sort of waste has been WCS's primary selling point when presenting themselves to prospective DOE and DOD clients. The motion suggests the qualifying radionuclide concentrations for exempt material, and includes the necessary language to preclude state regulation of exemption based on these amounts. Currently, WCS must request and notify state authorities prior to disposing low-level radioactive waste as "exempted," which means that the waste is no longer to be considered as radioactive and may be disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill. The motion also requires some NRC approval, which is under consideration. If approved, this legislation will be the first of it's kind, and a precident-setting ruling which will seriously affect how other states shall handle exemptions in the future.
After spending millions of dollars in an enormous lobbying effort, the nuclear industry has succeeded in getting the geologic repository at Yucca Mountain passed by both the House and Senate (see NIRS for the latest). In the closing months of the proceedings the Nuclear Energy Institute went to such measures as taking US House members on million dollar resort weekends to tell them how great they think the plan is. State-level resistance by a veto from Gov. Kenny Guinn of Nevada was overturned by large numbers in the House and the Senate. Please visit MapScience.org where you can check out how far the Yucca Mtn routes will be to you.
In a big suprise move, Exelon pulled out of the 'Pebble Bed' reactor game. They said it was for financial reasons, but there are indications it had something to do with public relations. The plant at Davis-Besse gave everyone a big scare back in February when the shielding around the reactor was found to have a 6-by-8-inch hole where acid had eaten it down to 3/8 INCH THICK! Before this and severed cracking was found, the NRC actually agreed to put off the inspection a couple of months. As of September, AP reported that the problem is even larger than they thought- not only is the cracking worse than thought, but in some areas, the acid had worn the shielding down significantly more, nearly 50% more in some areas (3/16ths of an inch).
With this occurence and other similar happenings internationally, regulators are starting to wonder how many of these older reactors DON'T have cracks and such. The NRC and others including USDOT are considering adopting the International Atomic Energy Agency's standards in some cases. With USDOT, this would relax standards on transporting radioactive materials. Just recently in New Mexico, a TRUPACT shipment got in a wreck with a truck; although the outer containment was not breached, the inner containment was, which was not reported in the news (see NRC's website).