Texas Legislature votes against nuclear waste dumping in rare bipartisan agreement

El Paso News

FILE – This June 1, 2021, file photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. Democrats in the Texas Legislature are planning to leave the state in another revolt against a GOP overhaul of election laws. A person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that Democrats are set to once again break quorum at the Texas Legislature in a dramatic showdown over voting rights in America. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The Texas Legislature voted against dumping nuclear waste in West Texas.

Members of the Texas Legislature demonstrated staunch opposition to the storage of high-level radioactive waste in West Texas in an almost unanimous vote. 

The Texas Senate approved House Bill 7 (HB 7), which cleared the House by a margin of 119-3 marking a rare moment of bipartisan agreement at the state Capitol. 

The bill implements a ban on high-level radioactive waste that includes spent nuclear fuel in Texas.

The legislation sought to demonstrate opposition to a pending license application before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and directed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to deny state permits for the project.

“These strong bipartisan votes are a clear message from the Texas Legislature to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that when it comes to storage of deadly radioactive waste in Texas, we don’t want it,” said SEED Coalition Director Karen Hadden. “We hope the bill will provide the safety protections Texans need and prevent unnecessary transportation risks nationwide.”

While the bill sends a strong message, advocates against nuclear waste dumping in Texas remain concerned over the omission of reactor-related “Greater Than Class C” (GTCC) waste from the bill.

The pending federal license application could lead to reactor-related GTCC waste (that can be as fatal as high-level waste) being dumped in Texas. 

“The U.S. Nuclear regulatory Commission is likely to issue in the next few days a license to store up to 40,000 metric tons of the nation’s most dangerous nuclear reactor waste in Andrews County,” said Adrian Shelley, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “With the passage of this bill, the state can deny the permits necessary to dump new waste at the site.”

Opposition to high-level waste being dumped in Texas ranges from counties and cities passing resolutions, to Governor Greg Abbott writing a strongly-phrased letter to the NRC opposing the plan.

“The passage of the bill is a victory for many volunteers who have worked to ensure protection of the health, safety, environment and economy of Texas,” said former State Representative Lon Burnam. “The governor is expected to sign the bill soon, allowing it to become effective before the NRC’s licensing decision.”

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