VY fuel rods: behind the barn or deep in the heart of Texas?

In a recent visit to Brattleboro Vermont Rep.Peter Welch suggested a solution for Vermont Yankee and other location’s spent nuclear fuel storage problems may be at hand.wcsgmd

A location to store/dispose/bury high level nuclear waste is desperately needed for the federal government to avoid nuclear power industry related lawsuits. This would be since the US Government’s long promised Yucca Mountain radioactive storage site appears locked permanently in limbo.

Welch said he and some congressional colleagues are making a fresh push for an interim storage area – possibly in Texas  that could accept spent fuel from plants like Vermont Yankee.

“Here’s what’s changing: There are more communities that are having their plants decommissioned … so it creates the potential for me to work with allies,”

In the US House and Senate proposals to adjust laws that regulate storage of high level nuclear waste may soon make possible a solution of sorts.

Texas Congressman Michael Conaway (R), perhaps Welch’s key ally, has introduced legislation called the Interim Consolidated Storage Act in 2015. (Conaway, by the way, is also champion of federal legislation that would kill Vermont’s GMO labeling law.) The nuclear waste storage bill amends existing regulations so government agencies can partner with private companies for storage of deadly high-level nuclear waste. Draft language makes more than $30 billion from the Nuclear Waste Fund available. The NWF consists of fees charged to nuclear customers and was intended to fund the federal Yucca Mt. waste facility in Nevada.

This will work a real sweet deal for one of Rep. Conaway’s district’s largest businesses — Waste Control Specialists LLC — which will reportedly apply for high level waste storage permitting. WCS happens to own the country’s only for-profit, private facility that handles low-level waste. Slightly misnamed ‘low level waste’ covers a very wide range from slightly radioactive trash to highly radioactive activated metals from inside reactors. The thousand-plus-acre nuclear waste dump is located in Andrews, Texas, just over three-hundred miles from Dallas.

The daughter of WCS founder billionaire Harold Simmons now controls the business. Simmons, who died in 2013, was heavily involved in conservative national politics. He provided funding for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and was a top conservative super PAC contributor in the 2012 Presidential race. Notably he referred to President Obama as the “most dangerous man in America”

The state of Vermont has for many years enjoyed its own sweet deal in Texas, a near-exclusive agreement with WCS to accept “our” low level nuclear waste. There are two Vermonters and one alternate (also from VT) who sit on the board of the Texas Low-level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission that oversees some of what WCS can do. Looking out  for our low-level nuclear disposal needs deep in the heart of Texas are: Peter Bradford, a former NRC official, and Richard H. Saudek,  former Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service; Jane O’Meara Sanders is an alternate board member.

The environment around Andrews County, Texas, will bear the long-term effects of the nuclear dump.

However, senior Project Director of the WCS Commercial Interim Storage Facility Mike McMahon sees quick  Texas sized profits: “We can de-inventory these sites quickly, in a straightforward way  we get a very high [return] for it, we get very strong political support,”

In 2013 The Texas Observer online wondered whether WCS or Andrews County, TX, could cover potential liabilities and potential future costs associated with the private nuclear dump.

“It’s an important question because although the dump’s profits flow to its owner, Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, the state and federal governments will eventually own the dump and its millions of cubic feet of radioactive waste. In other words, the taxpayers could be on the hook for a lot of dough. What’s to guarantee that Waste Control won’t take the profits and run?”

After reports about plastic swimming pools filled with contaminated water at the  Vermont Yankee power plant, Vermonters will probably be fine if the spent nuclear waste gets buried in Texas – never to be seen here again. And deep in Texas, “Swift Boat” Simmons’ WCS may just take the money and run.

One thought on “VY fuel rods: behind the barn or deep in the heart of Texas?

  1. “What’s to guarantee that Waste Control won’t take the profits and run?”

    The answer is probably nothing. There are no guarantees for the essentially perpetual risk of spent nuclear fuel. Anyone who engages in its management for profit can be expected to slide out of their obligations sooner or later. That’s one of the reasons why nuclear energy production should have never been entrusted to the private sector.

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