ANDREWS COUNTY - Andrews County is opening up its land to even more radioactive waste. It stems from changes made to the radioactive chemical disposal license attained by the Waste Control Specialists (WCS).
First, they've been approved to add a new material into the ground. Now depleted uranium has been cleared to be buried along with the other nuclear waste. If it's not disposed of properly, it can pose a health risk, considering it's the only radioactive chemical that gets more harmful over time.
According to Chuck McDonald, a spokesperson for WCS, those effects if even felt, would not even be registered during our time or that of generations near our lifetime. Still, he said they must take proper measures.
"That is a type of waste that needs to be containerized and according to experts, should be disposed of in a below grade fashion, which is exactly what we do at WCS," he said.
The waste is buried more than 100 feet into the ground and inside steel containers.
Other changes to the license insure the state would have enough space to store the harmful chemicals long-term, like from nuclear power plants that will be torn down in the future. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality made the decision in a unanimous vote on Wednesday.
"Both the operator WCS and TCEQ have approached this disposal operation with an abundance of caution, and after two years of operation, we have a pretty good idea (about safety) and I think the state concurred which is why the amendment was approved without any dissension at all," McDonald said.
Additionally, the site brings in direct revenue for the county and ultimately the citizens. They receive five percent of each disposal service fee. That has translated to about $4 million in just two years. Now with these new provisions, officials believe the site can take in close to triple the capacity it currently has occupied from facilities across the U.S., ultimately bringing in even more money.
The license application was originally filed ten years ago and operations kicked off in 2012. Since then, both parties said they've learned a lot about what kinds and how much waste the site can handle.