On January 14, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) approved an order granting Waste Control Specialists, LLC (“WCS”) licenses to operate a new low-level radioactive waste (“LLRW”) disposal facility in West Texas. The Commissioners voted 2-0 to allow WCS to build the facility in Andrews County, near the New Mexico state line. A third commissioner abstained from the vote.
In 2003, the Texas Legislature passed legislation allowing private companies to apply to operate a low-level waste facility in the state. On August 4, 2004, Waste Control Specialists submitted an application for a license for land disposal of low-level radioactive waste. On May 21, 2008, TCEQ issued an order allowing WCS to take certain byproduct wastes from the Department of Energy (“DOE”) for its disposal site in Andrews County. In July 2008, the Sierra Club filed suit in district court to overturn the decision.
The two licenses granted last week will allow WCS to operate a LLRW disposal facility that will be available to the “Texas Compact” (comprised of Texas and Vermont) and the federal government. The Texas Compact can choose to accept LLRW from generators from other states as well. WCS will be allowed to dispose of waste from nuclear plants, medical facilities in Texas and Vermont, as well as contaminated soil and other materials from the Department of Energy. TCEQ authorized the Texas Compact portion of the site to take up to 2.3 million cubic feet of commercial waste. The federal LLRW facility has an additional 26 million cubic feet of disposal capacity. Although the only current members of the Texas Compact are Texas and Vermont, it is anticipated that other states may join in order to obtain access to the facility.
The WCS disposal site will be the fourth commercial LLRW site in the United States, and may be the only option for many generators that do not currently have LLRW disposal capacity. Currently, the sole U.S. facility authorized to accept low-level and mixed LLRW from all United States generators is in Clive, Utah, but it accepts only Class A waste, which is the least radioactive category. The other two facilities are only open to states that have signed regional compacts. Thirty-four states currently have nowhere to permanently dispose of Class B and C LLRW. WCS will be able to permanently dispose of Class A, B and C LLRW at the new facility.
The TCEQ maintains a web page with links to relevant documents related to the waste facility proceedings at