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Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Region’s nuclear waste may wind up in Texas

County commissioner in Lone Star State says his area ‘would love to have’ disposal facility

August 4, 2004

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— Low-level radioactive waste generated in Nebraska and four other states, including Kansas, would be welcome in Andrews County, Texas, says one county official there.

"We would love to have you," Lloyd Eisenrich, president of the county's industrial foundation, told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Permanently housing the waste from nuclear power plants and hospitals would mean more money and jobs for the Texas county near the New Mexico border, Eisenrich said.

Low-level nuclear waste usually includes material used to handle the highly radioactive parts of nuclear reactors, such as cooling water pipes and radiation suits, and waste from medical procedures involving radioactive treatments or X-rays.

Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns has approached Texas Gov. Rick Perry about storing nuclear waste. Nebraska has offered to pay Texas $30 million if Texas were to accept the deal. Johanns has said that a successful agreement with Texas could help lower a $151 million judgment against Nebraska.

In 2002, a district judge ruled that former Nebraska Gov. Ben Nelson, now a U.S. senator, engaged in a politically motivated plot to keep a regional dump from being built in Nebraska. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld that ruling, and last month Nebraska appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The dump was to take waste from the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact, made up of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.

A telephone call by The Associated Press seeking comment from Perry's office was not returned Tuesday.

With an average annual rainfall of about 14 inches and a 800-foot deep band of red clay that would act as a barrier against the waste entering the water system, Andrews County is the ideal home for the waste, which can remain radioactive for hundreds of years, Eisenrich said.

"We got a fantastic geological location to store it permanently," Eisenrich said.

The Texas Legislature approved a bill last year that allows for the creation of two privately run waste disposal facilities licensed by the state.

Companies wanting to build a low-level radioactive waste site have until Friday to submit an application and nonrefundable $500,000 fee to the Texas Natural Resources Commission.

So far only one Texas company, Waste Control Specialists, has publicly announced its plans to submit an application. The company already has a hazardous waste storage facility about 45 miles northwest of Andrews -- the Andrews County seat.

Eisenrich said he was not aware of any local opposition to permanently storing the low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County.

"There's no organized opposition but there's bound to be individuals," he said.

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