Permit would allow higher level material at site in Andrews CountyA Dallas-based company on Tuesday cleared another hurdle in its multimillion-dollar effort to operate a radioactive waste dump in West Texas.
The executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recommended that the commission grant Waste Control Specialists a second license for disposal of low-level nuclear waste in Andrews County.
The commission in May granted the company a license to dispose of byproduct material, including waste from nuclear weapons processing and uranium mining.
The second license, if granted by the commission after a 30-day public comment period, would allow the company to dispose of a higher level of radioactive material, such as soil or contaminated uniforms, from hospitals and nuclear power plants. It wouldn't include spent fuel rods.
The recommendation, in the form of a "draft license," was made despite reservations by some of the commission's own geologists and engineers, who concluded a year ago that the application should be denied.
Waste Control Specialists is owned by Harold Simmons, a major political donor to Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed the environmental commissioners.
The company, in a written statement, said the state had taken "critical" steps toward meeting its low-level radioactive waste needs. It said the new facilities will be safe and environmentally sound.
Carrying on with expansionThe company, which has been disposing of other hazardous and toxic waste at the Andrews County site for several years, already is proceeding with expansion plans, despite a lawsuit by the Sierra Club challenging the project.
The facility would accept waste from Vermont as well as Texas.
"In addition to providing more than 75 new jobs at our Andrews County facility, this (second) license will ensure that Texas and Vermont hospitals, universities, power plants and other enterprises will be able to continue operating with the knowledge that there is an assured solution for the permanent disposal of their low-level radioactive waste," said William J. Lindquist, chief executive officer of Waste Control Specialists.
Company President Rodney A. Baltzer said the new facilities "will be protective of the environment and public health for thousands of years to come."
The company announced recently that it was moving ahead with construction of disposal facilities authorized by the first license.
It has awarded a three-year, $80 million contract to URS, a San Francisco-based engineering and construction firm.