Radioactive waste import rule may be delayed by Capitol hearings

The Texas Legislature may delay a proposed rule on importation of low level radioactive waste. That proposed rule would allow waste from 36 states to be disposed at a site near Andrews, Texas. The rule has been proposed by the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, which was formed in 2008 to oversee the state’s yet-to-be-built compact waste landfill.

Compact commissioners addressed the Sunset Advisory Commission at a hearing Wednesday in Austin. “I thought when we passed the statute you were limited to two states,” said Senator Juan Hinojosa recalling a debate in the 78th Texas Legislature that ultimately authorized the facility for Texas and Vermont.

“The state is not taking on an unfunded liability,” replied Compact Commission chairman Michael Ford referring to a requirement that the site operator put up $180 million for closure costs. That confidence was not shared by two other commissioners that testified. “This is something that requires a great deal of trust,” said Compact Commissioner Bob Gregory. His concerns were echoed by fellow Compact Commissioner Robert Wilson who reminded the panel that “the people of the state of Texas are taking on that liability.”

State Representative Rafael Anchia questioned the capacity available to Texas if the landfill is opened to other states. “We may need that capacity over the next 50 years,” said Representative Anchia. “This is a huge issue,” said Senator Glenn Hegar who notified the commissioners that “it is on the radar at a high level and we do want to work on this as we move into our legislative session in January.”