Posts Tagged ‘radioactive waste’

18-Wheeler Accident Spills Radioactive Material in Pineville, LA

With the passage of SB 1504 in the Texas Senate, radioactive waste could soon be barreling down Texas highways and through our neighborhoods by way of Interstate 10 through Houston, San Antonio and El Paso; I-20 and I-30 though Dallas and Forth Worth, Midland and Odessa ; and I-27 though Lubbock and Amarillo. 

The greatest risk we face is having an accident with vehicles containing waste.  Cleanup estimates range from $100 to a billion dollars or more according to the U.S. Department of Energy, but the state of Texas has set aside only $500,000.  Taxpayers would pay the rest.

 And what if an accident happens next to a school, playground or hospital?  Don’t we want to make sure that our local emergency responders have the training and equipment needed to handle an accident where a truck is leaking radioactive waste?

 Thanks to Senator Seliger’s leadership, there have been some important protections added in, but a number of loopholes remain that dramatically increases the risk and liability assumed by Texas taxpayers.  There is still a chance to close these loopholes.  This bill goes to the Texas House floor next week and Texans should ask their legislators to make sure that there is an immediate thorough analysis of transportation risks, costs of cleaning up contamination from accidents or leaks, and waste capacity at the site.

 As the Japanese nuclear disaster has taught us, cleaning up after radioactive waste can be a costly and dangerous process.  We urge the house to make sure we have protective measures in place before an accident.

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HB 2184 will probably be voted out of the Texas House State Affairs Committee later this afternoon and so far, legislation that impacts how much, from where and how safely radioactive waste will be stored at a West Texas site is moving forward in favor of the private operator, giving them the power to negotiate private deals to import waste, make a gigantic profit and do it without any oversight by Texas regulatory agencies or the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission.

According to an article in Mother Jones:

The compact allows him (Simmons) to get paid for burying other states’ nuclear trash while outsourcing much of the risk to Texas taxpayers. Though the state will receive a cut of disposal fees and $36 million to cover “corrective action” and “post-closure” expenses, it will have to bear any other cleanup costs on its own. According to a report by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission: “Potential future contamination [from the waste] could not only have a severe impact to the environment and human health, but to the State, which bears the ultimate financial responsibility for compact waste disposal facility site.

Click here to read the recent Mother Jones article on the history and issues with this site.

In light of the massive cleanup that faces Japan from the radiation that is flooding the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the wake of its ongoing recovery efforts – seemingly contributed to by Japan’s failure to adequately regulate and reign in the runaway plant operator, is it in Texas’ best interest to just let this company have their way with us?

This bill will go next to the floor of the House and if it continues to move, as we expect it will given the money and influence behind it, on to a Senate committee.  If we are to have any chance of making this bill more protective of the health, well-being and pocketbooks of regular Texans, regular Texans are going to have to let their lawmakers know they are concerned.

House State Affairs

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HB 2184 – BAD and moving forward
by Lewis (more…)

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HB 2184BAD

by Lewis (more…)

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Texans for Lots of Radiation bring attention to Harold Simmons' donations to Texans for Lawsuit Reform

Texans for Lots of Radiation (TLR too) brought attention to the record donations raised by Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) PAC ($6.9 million in the 2010 election cycle) with help from its No. 1 donor: nuclear-waste kingpin Harold Simmons. To reduce the cost of negligently harming other people, the PAC took 12 cents of every dollar it raised from Simmons. Not coincidentally, this billionaire is imposing unprecedented liabilities on Texans by importing staggering volumes of toxic and radioactive waste into West Texas.

TLR too is an ad hoc coalition of concerned organizations that include Texans for Public Justice, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Econimic Development (SEED) Coaliton. 

Lobby Watch also finds that many of TLR’s biggest new donors are righteously litigious dudes.  Click here to read the Lobby Watch report on this PAC’s contributions and its biggest contributor.  You can also check out the TLR too website for more information. 

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NRC LogoReprint of NRC notice No. 11-027
February 16, 2011


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting Feb. 24 in Rockville, Md., to discuss potential revisions to a key document used by agency staff in classifying low-level radioactive waste for disposal.

The agency is also seeking written public comment on revisions to the document, known as the Branch Technical Position on Concentration Averaging and Encapsulation (CABTP).  (Yeah, I have no idea what that means either, but I do know that there are plans afoot to bring a whole lot of low-level radioactive waste to Texas so we should probably pay attention to what is classified as low-level radioactive waste)

The public meeting will be held at the Legacy Hotel Meeting Rooms, 1775 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Md., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 24. Public comments will be accepted through April 15.


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Governor Peter Shumlin, the newly sworn in Governor of Vermont, has appointed Montpelier attorney Richard Saudek and Vermont Law School professor Peter Bradford to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission (TLLRWCC).   The TLLRWCC is an 8 member legal entity, separate and distinct from the party states, whose commissioners are appointed by the Governors of Texas and Vermont. The Commission consists of six Texas and two Vermont appointees.

The commission are responsible for administering the provisions of the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact. The States of Vermont and Texas are the party states. Texas is the host state for a low level radioactive waste disposal facility.

Saudek, who is a partner in the law firm of Cheney, Brock & Saudek, P.C., has advised legislative committees on issues involving Vermont Yankee and its owner, Entergy Corp. Saudek has also served as Chair of the Vermont Department of Public Service, and as Vermont’s first Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service.

Bradford is an adjunct professor at Vermont Law School, where he teaches ‘Nuclear Power and Public Policy.’ He also teaches utility regulation, restructuring, nuclear power and energy policy. Bradford served on the Public Oversight Panel for the Comprehensive Vertical Assessment of Vermont Yankee, and has served as an expert witness on investment in new nuclear power.

Public Citizen is very pleased with Mr. Bradford’s appointment and believes Mr. Saudek will also make a good addition to this industry skewed commission.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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In December Texans for Public Justice reported that Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons had contributed $620,000 to Governor Rick Perry.  TPJ’s publication Lobby Watch questioned how Perry’s appointees could objectively regulate Simmons’ nuclear ambitions. That question looms larger after Simmons gave Perry another $500,000 this in 2010. Having given him a total of $1,120,000, Simmons now ranks as the governor’s No. 2 individual donor.1

And now, Harold Simmons, is the largest benefactor for the new Railroad Commissioner, David Porter.  According to the report filed yesterday with the Texas Ethics Commission, which covered the period from late October until the fundraising moratorium triggered by the 2011 legislative session, Porter’s largest single donation came from Harold Simmons, the owner of Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists, who delivered a check for $25,000 to Porter on Oct. 27. . . .and another check for $25,000 the same day.    Simmons also made contributions to Porter in June to the tune of  $10,000, according to Ethics Commission reports.

I think the giving levels of Harold Simmons warrant watching, especially given the fact that much of his business is regulated by state agencies, and his predilection for spending money late in the election cycle (such as a gift of half a million dollars to Texans for Lawsuit Reform- a notorious tort reform super-PAC), a trick employed by Karl Rove to escape campaign finance scrutiny until an election is looooong over.

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The Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) approved rules yesterday that pave the way for 36 states to export low-level radioactive waste to a remote landfill along the Texas-New Mexico border.

The 5-2 vote by the TLLRWDCC came after last-minute legal maneuvering on Monday failed to delay the meeting when a federal judge threw the case out because he didn’t believe he had jurisdiction even though he expressed concerns about the issue brought before him involving the loss of comments because of an incorrect email address being posted in the Texas Register instructing citizens on how to and where to comment about the rules.  Even with that, more than 5,000 people commented on the plan, almost all in opposition to it.

The vote also came two days before Vermont’s incoming governor, Peter Shumlin, takes office. The Governor-elect has openly criticized the plan and had said he would replace the state’s two commissioners with members more in line with his views.  And we believe the commission was rushing to vote on the rules to ensure a majority.

WCS has stated that they are expecting some legal challenges to the commission’s decision, but is moving ahead with construction of the landfill. The first phase of construction should be completed by November. In early 2012, the second part of the site — where federal waste will be stored — will also be finished.

While the facility will now be able to accept waste from three dozen states, the TLLRWDCC guaranteed Vermont — which paid $25 million to have two members on the commission — 20 percent capacity in the landfill. Vermont has only one nuclear facility, but since it plans to phase it out in the next 30 to 40 years it sought to promise itself space for the waste that process would create.  And yes . . . this facility will accept waste from nuclear power plants—every thing but the spent fuel rods, not just the medical booties and gloves the mainstream media (as fed to them by WCS) always talked about in their stories.

TLLRWDCC Commissioner Bob Wilson has opposed the expansion plans and the rules for some time. He voted against the rules on Tuesday, but largely because he fears the commission is unprepared to deal with the enormity of the task once the 1,340-acre site begins accepting waste from other states. The commission is largely unfunded, getting $25,000 a year from Vermont and money from Texas only to cover meeting and travel costs.  It has no office—just a postal box in a building in Austin from what we can tell (yes we went by to see if there actually was someone in an office space to accept all those comments that came flooding in through the Christmas holiday)—and their one staff member’s last day was right after the new year.  Expanding the importation of waste will interfere with the site’s capacity and Wilson questioned whether it will be as profitable as is being predicted.

Public Citizen, is reviewing the past months events and will decide the next step later this week, but a lawsuit is possible.

We will let you know how things progress.

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Well for those who have been waiting to hear how the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) voted on the new rule that would open Texas up to accepting radioactive waste from as many as 36 other states (and possibly beyond that), it is no surprise that the Compact Commission voted in favor of the rule.

Public Citizen‘s Texas director, Tom “Smitty” Smith and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition’s executive director, Karen Hadden drove through the night to the edges of the state in order to attend the hearing this morning, and have spent the better part of the day listening to the public and the Commissioners debate issues around this rule.

Karen Hadden just texted us to say:

In an outrageous demonstration of ignoring public opposition, the unfunded Compact Commision, which has no office, no bylaws and only one staff person, still managed to vote to open Texas up to radioactive waste from around the country.  In Andrews County, a late afternoon vote followed public testimony, predominantly in opposition to the radioactive waste expansion, and heated debate between the Commissioners.

Legal challenges are likely.  The Commissioners rushed this crucial vote through during the holidays ahead of the swearing in of a new Governor in Vermont and the beginning of the 82nd Texas legislative session.  They rushed this vote through in spite of concerns being expressed by legislative members of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission during a December 15th Sunset Commission hearing. They rushed this vote through in spite of issues around citizens’ ability to submit their comments because of a incorrect email address listed in the Texas Register posting of the rules and instructions to the public about where to submit comments.  They rushed this through despite a motion by Commissioner Gregory to extend the comment period which they refused to do.   They rush this through and Texas got screwed.

We will post more on this vote tomorrow.

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Judge Sam Sparks of the US District Court for the Western District of Texas just dismissed the case to enjoin the Compact Commission meeting tomorrow, saying while he was concerned about the issue of citizen’s ability to participate fully, he did not have jurisdiction to enjoin the meeting, and threw the whole case out allowing the vote on the rule to go forward tomorrow.

So, the Compact Commission is still planning to meet in Andrews, Texas at 9 am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9 AM, at the James Roberts Center located at 855 Hwy 176 East, Andrews, TX 79714 . . .  Please join us if you can!


The Compact Commission is still planning to meet in Andrews, Texas at 9 am tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9 AM, at the James Roberts Center located at 855 Hwy 176 East, Andrews, TX 79714 . . .  Please join us if you can!


Legal Maneuvers Still Underway
The Commission could vote on the Import rule at this meeting. Passage would allow import of radioactive waste from all the states, and through a loophole, potentially the whole world. It would be disposed of through shallow burial at the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) site in Andrews County, Texas. The TCEQ does set license limits for the site, but the import rule sought by WCS and most members of the Compact Commission is a backhanded way to force license expansion.
Legal efforts by Public Citizen resulted in a Temporary Restraining Order for tomorrow’s meeting.  Now the AG is jumping in, although they should have nothing whatsoever to say about this, since they have made clear that they can’t represent the Commission, only individual members.
There is now a 3 pm hearing (today) with US District Judge Sam Sparks at the Federal Courthouse, 200 W. 8th Street in Austin.
Proceedings here could impact the Andrews meeting scheduled for tomorrow in Andrews, but we’re counting on the meeting still happening and heading out west after the hearing.


A hearing on the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission’s (TLLRWDCC) hearing on their proposed rule to open Texas up to taking waste from states outside the current compact states of Texas and Vermont is scheduled for 3pm in Federal Court, Judge Sam Sparks presiding. The motion was filed by GNI Strategies.

No hearing has been set on the motion to dissolve TRO in state court.





By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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UPDATE:  Hope you’ve been keeping an eye on this, but just needed to point out there have been major developments on this which make this post now completely false.  We don’t believe in just dumping things down the memory hole here, but do believe in making sure we get things right.  The updates are all posted here, so please keep your eyes on TexasVox for more updates on this.  Original story:


We’re still waiting for the final tally to come in, but it looks like through your efforts over 4,000 comments (probably closer to 5,000 or 6,000 with all of the other comments) were delivered into the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, despite it being over the holidays.  We’ve been working furiously on this issue the past few weeks, and it’s paid off.

And now, a judge has ordered a halt to the upcoming meeting of the Compact Commission, putting the brakes on discussion of the importation rule.

Stay here for an update, but huge thanks to everyone who submitted a comment and worked so hard on this, especially our friends at CREDO Action who got so many of the comments in!!  Special thanks to Sierra Club for their hard work on this as well.

Let’s keep this crazy train rolling into 2011 and make our new year nuke-waste free.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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UPDATED: Thanks to everyone who commented!  We’ll have a blog wrapup/ news release ASAP.


And check our flikr photostream here on the blog for non moving pictures from this morning, if that’s more your thing.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled snark, already in progress. 


Supervillain Harold Simmons sitting on a pile of radioactive waste

Bond Supervillain and sometimes Grinch Harold Simmons, picture from D magazine

This morning when I woke up my precious 2 year old son, he asked if I could sing him “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch“, and while I was singing and described the Grinch’s moldy, garlicky, spider-infested brain, heart, and soul, I couldn’t stop thinking of Dallas Billionaire Harold Simmons and the unelected bureacrats who decided the holidays were the perfect time to try to permit nuclear waste coming to Texas.  And while I wouldn’t normally touch them with a 39 1/2 foot pole, touch we must.

Whatever your plans for the holidays — putting up decorations, sending cards to friends and family, buying gifts and a much-needed vacation– I’m sure they did not include telling an obscure state commission you don’t want Texas to become the nation’s radioactive waste dump.  But more than any figgy pudding, that is what we must bring, and bring it right here!

Wait… you’re saying you weren’t planning to closely read and comment on a proposed rule that would put a big ole “for sale” sign on our state for anyone with unwanted radioactive waste?

Well that’s exactly what Michael Ford, the governor’s appointed (i.e. unelected) chairman of the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (i.e. radioactive waste czar), is counting on.

At a meeting announced just hours after the November polls had closed and election winners and losers had been announced, the TLLRWDCC (I know, it’s a mouthful even abbreviated) voted 5-2 to repost a rule that would allow out-of-state radioactive waste generators – primarily nuclear power plants on the coasts and in the midwest – to send  their waste here.

Worse still, the TLLRWDCC managed to post the rule the day after Thanksgiving, ensuring that media and public attention would be minimal. The posting started a 30 day comment period during which the public can let the TLLRWDCC know how they feel about it. So let’s run the numbers and… oh, fabulous, comments are due the day after Christmas! Happy holidays, indeed!

Ford brought up this bad idea last summer, but polls showed a majority of Texans didn’t like the proposal.  Bill White made it an election issue, accusing Governor Perry of making the state a radioactive waste dump to benefit his donor.  So Perry’s Waste Czar pulled the proposal, waiting until day after the election to announce that the process would move forward once more.

But announcing a meeting the day after the election with just 10-days notice for people to travel to Midland (where the capitol press would be unlikely to follow), and then posting the rule itself such that the comment period would meet the literal definition of “the holidays” was only the beginning for Mr. Ford.

A commissioner named Bob Gregory who, like Ford, was appointed by Governor Perry asked that the comment period on this rule be extended to 90 days since a 30 day comment period would transpire during the holidays when most people are too busy to pay much attention to matters of civic engagement. Mr. Ford and 4 other members of the TLLRWDCC voted against Mr. Gregory’s very reasonable solution for this very obvious problem.

The bottom line is that Mr. Ford and several of the commissioners are afraid of public scrutiny. Last spring they received over 2,000 comments from Texans opposed to the rule. That was before the issue made the front pages of newspapers all across the state, so they have good reason to be afraid.

During the holidays many Americans take time to be with family, to exercise their generosity, and to reflect on all they have to be grateful for. Mr. Ford and 4 of the other commissioners have decided to cynically use this to keep the public out of the process on this enormously important matter.

And while you’re getting dumped on, someone will get a really nice Christmas gift this year.

This smacks of a political payback. Harold Simmons, whose company owns this dump, has spread his cash far and wide, giving Governor Perry over $1 million since 2000 (making him the governor’s 2nd largest individual donor) and funding campaigns for every member of the Texas Supreme Court among others. While Simmons gets to make billions off this waste, Texans will get the responsibility for managing it for 10,000 years and cleaning it up — Mr. Simmons’ license expires in just 15 years.

But there is hope. Send your comments to the Compact Commissioners telling them the only good radioactive waste importation rule is one that bans any waste from coming to this state unless there is a national emergency. Tell them lawmakers in Texas bargained for only Vermont and Texas waste, and that’s what the people of Texas expect. And tell them that Christmas isn’t a weapon to be wielded against the public.

The Grinch about to go down a chimney

The Grinch is likely to file a defamation suit against me for comparing him to Harold Simmons.

Please go to www.TexasNuclearSafety.org where you can learn more about this issue and submit comments to the commission, and I hope you’ll give ’em what-for because they certainly deserve it.

Keep Texas from becoming what they want it to: an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots. So, Mr. Ford, Mr. Simmons– between the three of you, I think I’d take the seasick crocodile. And the three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote: Stink. Stank! STUNK!

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The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant -by Wikipedia

In an article by the New York Times that focuses on Vermont‘s concerns about losing space to waste from generators in other states, Matthew Wald writes:

Waste disposal is so difficult, says the company, Waste Control Services, that power plants and other generating sources have reduced their volumes sharply. And Vermont and Texas together produce so little that, the company adds, it would have to charge huge amounts per cubic foot and per unit of radioactivity to get its investment back.

Yet, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition’s research shows the Waste Control Specialists site is currently licensed for 2.3 million cubic feet of water and 3.89 million curies. Texas’ existing four reactors and Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor would require 6 million cubic feet of capacity.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen tells the New York Times that he believes, “They’re trying to get it done before the new governor takes office.”

To read the New York Times article, click here.

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Texas is at risk of becoming the nation’s radioactive dumping ground. 

The new proposed rules were posted in the Texas Register on Friday, November 24th and the public comment period is through December 26th.  In the meantime, the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission (TLLRWCC) has scheduled a public hearing on the import/export Rule on December 9th (Thursday) at 10 am.  The meeting will be on the TCEQ campus at 12100 Park 35 Circle, Building E, Room 201 in Austin. (more…)

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