Nuke waste sites in Texas and New Mexico worry League of Women Voters in Ft. Worth

Members of the League of Women Voters in Fort Worth are speaking out against the rail movement of nuclear waste that would pass through their city enroute to two possible waste sites, one in Texas and another in eastern New Mexico.

One would be at the existing low-level storage facility in Andrews County, Texas. The second, known as the Holtec site, would be between Carlsbad and Hobbs, New Mexico.

The League published a statement about the prospects of the transportation through northern cities in Texas.

Most of the uranium waste from nuclear power plants is located east of the Mississippi River. Union Pacific Railroad appears to be the most likely carrier of the high-level nuclear waste casks, although any commercial rail lines could be used.

Union Pacific tracks run through the middle of the county, just south of downtown Fort Worth and just north of Arlington’s City Hall and library, traversing neighborhoods of all kinds. Fort Worth’s medical district and the TCU and UT-Arlington campuses are within 1.5 miles of the tracks.

A second Union Pacific rail line runs north toward Denton from Tower 55, a major railroad intersection just southeast of downtown Fort Worth. A large Union Pacific railyard lies southwest of downtown.

Tower 55 holds vital national and international significance, connecting freight and passenger travel between the East and West coasts, Southeast, Midwest, Gulf Coast, Mexico, and Canada. More than 100 trains pass through Tower 55 each day.

Interim Storage Partners, which operates the Andrews County site, has asked to have 45 days to move low-level waste from Vermont. The rail cars carrying the high-level radioactive waste would sit at the Fort Worth rail yard, across from Colonial Country Club.

These nuclear waste cars are readily identifiable, given their huge dumbbell-like shape, size and weight, which makes them a potential target for terrorist attacks.

High-level radioactive waste is one of the most dangerous substances on earth, consisting of irradiated fuel rods that have been inside nuclear reactors. Exposure to unshielded nuclear waste is lethal. One railcar would carry more plutonium than was in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves either or both licenses, thousands of rail shipments of deadly, high-level radioactive waste could move through Tarrant County for more than 20 years, risking accidents leaks, and terrorist actions.

Transport of massive amounts of high-level waste in thousands of shipments across the country is unprecedented. A 2019 report of the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board found that there is a substantial lack of data regarding potential damage of spent nuclear fuel during transport.

Many rails are only designed to carry 143 tons per car. The loaded casks for this waste weigh 210 tons or more. It is unclear whether tracks in Tarrant County would handle such weight.

And accidents can happen. A cask carrying low-level waste that was headed to Andrews caught fire in the Chicago area in June.

A better alternative would be to leave high-level waste at existing nuclear plants until a permanent repository is found to bury cannisters underground. The repository should be owned by the federal government, not a private entity.

Source: League of Women Voters Texas