Last Revised: May 16, 2009


LEGISLATIVE MISMANAGEMENT OF THE "K-65 RESIDUES"

2003

Summer

In a move paralleling the move to declassify High-Level Waste at the major DOE sites, DOE urges key Congressmen to insert a provision in the Energy and Water Appropriation Bill that would have the effect of enshrining the existing improper classification of these extremely hazardous, high radium content K-65 residues as "11e.(2) byproduct material", which in this case is erroneously referred to as "low-level waste". This action paves the way for these high-level-hazard wastes to be dumped at the commercial Envirocare facility in Utah, further lining the pockets of this politically well-connected waste company.

October

October 11 - Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, a former EnviroCare employee, is reported to be pushing for the insertion of this clause.

October 31 - With the assistance of Utah Representative Bishop, DOE is successful in getting the wording inserted, thereby executing a legislative end-run around the existing, inadequate, waste classification system. The future public health and economic welfare interests of Utahans are exchanged by Rep. Bishop for immediate corporate gain. NY's Congressmen do not try to prevent across-the-board mismanagement of all K-65 wastes, including those at NFSS.

November

November 11 - The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Ohio Senator George Voinovich and Rep. David Hobson, in addition to the two Utah Congressmen, were behind this irrational radioactive waste management deal. This story revealed for the first time that, at the insistence of Hobson and Voinovich, wording that includes the NFSS residues was added to the existing provision in both the Energy and Water Appropriation Bill and the omnibus Energy Bill. NY Congressmembers Louise Slaughter and Thomas Reynolds fail to respond to requests for information. Slaughter votes for the measure; Quinn and Reynolds are absent for the vote.

Public opposition is loudly expressed in Utah.

November 12 - After keeping the public in the dark, Utah Congressmen now say it's 'too late' to remove the K-65 residues clause from the Energy and Water Appropriation Bill.

This residues provision opens the door to other sites in additional states. Among these, International Uranium Corporation's White Mesa, UT site, Cotter Corporation's Canon City, CO site, and Waste Control Specialists' Andrews, Texas site are identified as potential recipients of the Fernald/NFSS residues.

November 17 - The Salt Lake Tribune uncovers Utah Senator Bob Bennett's involvement.

November 18 - FY 2004 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, HR 2754, containing the Fernald/NFSS residues provision passes the House by a wide margin. The original Senate version (S.1424) did not contain any reference to the NFSS residues, but the full Senate subsequently accepts by unanimous consent the conferees report naming both the Fernald AND the NFSS residues.

Western New York Representatives Jack Quinn, Amo Houghton, and Louise Slaughter voted for the measure; Rep. Thomas Reynolds did not vote.

See how your representative voted on HR 2754.

Prominent Utahans express outrage at secret dealing. NY Congressmen remain silent on the issue.

November 19 - Amid a massive public outcry in Utah EnviroCare drops its NRC license request.

November 28 - Fernald contractor Fluor Daniel announces it intention to pursue "all options" to get its $215 million bonus for accelerated cleanup.

December

December 2 - Senator Bennett tacks onto another spending bill a provision to transfer NRC control over dumping of Fernald(DOE)/NFSS(USACE) residues to existing Agreement States or to those states which have applied for such status (e.g., Utah).

But a previous FY energy and water appropiations to USACE for implementation of FUSRAP have specifically exempted USACE from NRC oversight. It is unclear if this exemption from NRC oversight continues with the FY2004 appropriation; it is not stated. Therefore, the USACE which temporarily controls the NFSS may or may not be immune from Bennett's provision.
2004

February

February 21 - Utah legislature amends radioactive waste control law to require government approval for disposal of uranium mill tailings - of any concentration - at radioactive waste facilities in Utah; this change specifically allows continuation of "alternate feed materials" scheme at International Uranium Corporation's White Mesa mill located south of Blanding, UT.

March

Salt Lake Tribune story: IUC denies any current interest in receiving Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS) residues [uranium mill tailings, i.e. 11e.(2) byproduct materals] under the NRC/IUC sham "alternate feed materials" scheme. The NFSS residues are currently under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers for interim disposition, although the Energy Department owns the NFSS site and is legally responsible for all site residues and wastes. See "The Devil's Dirt" for an in-depth on the NRC's "alternate feed material" scam at the IUC mill in Blanding, Utah, with a comparison to the mines at Shinkolobwe, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the source of the "K-65" ores that Linde, Mallinckrodt, and Fernald processed.

April

State of Nevada vows suit to stop DOE shipping Fernald's high-level silo residues to the Nevada Test Site. See Nevada Attorney General Sandoval's explicit letter to DOE's Roberson.
However, the feds - DOE and NRC - continue to mouth the big lie that these are "low-level" radioactive wastes, completely ignoring their earlier 1994 Silos ROD which rationally identified these materials as similar in hazard to high-level radioactive waste (HLW) and called for their vitrification. See "No Vitrification of Fernald's High-level K-65 Residues".

Public discussion of "hotter" radwaste is unhealthy for some Utah politicians

DOE's 11th hour reply to Nevada lawsuit ultimatum : Nevada will only get a 45 day advance warning of Fernald shipments

Photos from DOE's April tour of the Fernald silo complex :

Bags DOE plans to use to contain Silo 3 waste for shipping [92 KB].
Shipping containers DOE plans to use for Silo 1 and 2 waste [93 KB].
NOTE: these are not High-Level Waste shipping casks.

June
June 3 - EPA tells DOE not to remove silo wastes from berm-protected silos if the wastes are not to be immediately treated and shipped to long-term storage site: Seattle Post-Intelligencer story.

September

September 28 - With no recipient storage site identified or available, DOE starts removal of the most hazardous waste at Fernald - the K-65 residues - from secure silo storage. EPA takes no action to prevent this premature movement of the high-level K-65 materials into a much less safe configuration :

Four 750,000 gallon temporary tanks under construction in 2002,
will hold K-65 residues slurried from silos prior to mixing with grout


[ Construction of K-65 temporary holding tanks (Fern-2002-tanks.jpg 
56kb) ]

DOE directs its Fernald contractor Fluor to find alternative disposal sites to the Nevada Test Site. This presumably is to give Fluor legal cover for deviating from the already improperly-changed Silos ROD - the original 1994 ROD specified vitrification of these wastes - in its efforts to meet the DOE's 2006 Fernald site closure deadline and thereby reap substantial DOE performance-based incentives (PBIs total $215 millions).
Fluor Fernald says it will not publicly identify a recipient site until at least next February, however, it has clearly fingered the WCS' west Texas facility : see Odessa American article below.

It is now apparent that EPA's June 3, 2004 letter warning DOE against such a move was simply PR intended to defuse public concerns in Nevada and Utah. There is currently very little rational regulatory activity at any of the Bush administration agencies that deal with nuclear waste safety issues.

October

Waste Control Specialists, Inc., operator of a low level radioactive waste storage facility in Andrews, Texas, files application with the Texas DHSH to modify its license to allow acceptance of the Fernald silo wastes, including the high-level K-65 residues: see Ohio News Now, and Odessa American stories .
TNSI has learned that WCS has not limited itself to Fernald's silo wastes alone; any DOE-originated (Niagara Falls Storage Site, etc.) wastes defined as uranium tailings would be covered:
"Waste Control Specialists could not bring the waste into Texas without an amendment to their current license," said Richard Ratliff, radiation program officer in the department of regulatory services at Texas's DSHS. "In their applications they give all the details on Fernald's waste but they have not limited their application to that waste."
For more details on this west Texas waste operator, see radtexas.org page.

Short-sighted public concern about transportation risks prompts a review by Homeland Security, but ignores DOE's fundamental failure to properly treat these high-level K-65 residues, i.e. by vitrification. Such treatment is necessary if serious long-term environmental contamination is to be avoided.

November

Utah's 2nd Congressional race heats up. Incumbent Jim Matheson's Republican challenger John Swallow wants to build Bush's "bunker buster" nuclear bomb, to test it at the Nevada Test Site, and "to study" opening up Utah state land for storage of high level nuclear waste, i.e. spent nuclear fuel rods. See Salt Lake Tribune story.
Matheson wins despite virtual GOP sweep ; more details .
2005

March

March 1 - A new DOE-funded National Academey of Sciences report is rolled out to support DOE's faulty "cost-benefit" excuse for declassifying HLW and TRU. The report mentions, in weaker terms, the prime finding of the much earlier 1995 NFSS NASNRC report which warned of the high-level hazard of the K-65 residues -- see NFSS page. Unfortunately, no recommendation is made to use the remaining vitrification facilities at Hanford or Savannah River in order to properly address the K-65 problem. A timely recommendation to use the vitrification facility at more proximal West Valley would have been optimal from a transportation standpoint, however this facility is now completing dismantlement.

March 2 - Texas board approves WCS application to temporarily store radioactive waste from "almost anywhere". DOE has carefully maintained it has not yet decided to use WCS for the inadequately treated, high-level K-65 residues. Of course, any such statement by DOE could be viewed as prejudicing any future decision by Texas to grant a permanent disposal permit to WCS. A public hearing on that decision is scheduled for March 31. ... more.

March 10 - DOE announces completion of hydraulic slurrying of the high-level K-65 residues from silos 1 and 2 to the holding tanks and says remote-handled mixing of the slurry (20%) with flyash-cement (80%) will start in April. Implemention of 1:4 dilution and inadequate stabilization of these K-65 residues is apparently only weeks away.

[remote handling facility for flyash-cement solidification of Fernald K-65 residues]
Remote handling facility for flyash-cement
solidification of 'hot' Fernald K-65 residues

March 16 - DOE becomes focus of row over premature removal of security fence; this is blatant evidence of DOE's misplaced priorities wherein work acceleration and contractor bonuses are placed ahead of sound waste management, public safety and security.

Cincinnati Enquirer update; contaminated berm soils removed, location not specified.

April 28 - DOE recklessly contracts Waste Control Specialists of Andrews, TX for "temporary" storage of Fernald's High-level K-65 wastes, well in advance of the Texas regulator's consideration of a permanent disposal licensing amendment. DOE apparently will do almost anything to ensure its contractors get bonuses. The Cincinnati Enquirer parrots the DOE line on vitrification: "technically infeasible," and reports the locals relief at getting this HLW out. Read it and weep. The Odessa American quotes an unhappy rancher, who logically but mistakenly assumes DOE will use railcars for waste shipments. Will the Lone Star Sierra Club intervention receive any public support? The irony that this inadequately treated, and therefore illegally diluted, HLW will wind up in Texas during this presidency is not lost on those back East.

June 4 - St. Louis Post Dispatch article describes the first of 2000 truck shipments of inadequately-treated, High-level K-65 residues to leave Fernald. Sierra Club appeal of decision apparently not granted preliminary injunction.

October 24 - IEER report shows Waste Control Specialists of Andrews TX to be unqualified to manage uranium wastes and finds both Clive UT and Andrews TX unsuitable sites for shallow burial of uranium wastes.

2006

Spring/summer/fall - Contractor Fluor Daniel ships Silo 3 wastes, bagged in plastic, to Envirocare facility in Clive, Utah; flyash-cement grouted K-65 residues shipped to WCS facility in Andrews, TX.

August - IEER releases a report, "Shifting Radioactivity Risks," that is highly critical of the DOE decision process at Fernald. Major findings: replacement of original Silos ROD calling for vitrification of residues with amendment utilizing grossly inferior waste form/packaging will not meet long-term radiation exposure standards; $50 million saving (1.5% of Fernald remediation total cost) resulting from this change overshadowed by $288 million in contractor bonuses to be paid by DOE for accelerated closeout of FEMP by the end of 2006.
This report is must reading for those involved at the NFSS. The report shows that "Closeout 2006 at Fernald" is far from being the end the story.

2008
Spring - Army Corps tries to squash the existing advisory group at the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works (LOOW) site. See letter and Artvoice article.

May 20 - Citizens rally in Austin against approval of WCS by-product disposal facility; see KTRK story. In a press release, Lone Star Sierra Club's Cyrus Reed said a hearing may have cleared up much about the company's application. "As it stands right now the public may never know why former members of the TCEQ [Texas Council on Environmental Quality] science team looking at the application considered it one of the worst in the agency's history and if the geology is as they believe, residents of Eunice, N.M., will face the consequences." See Sierra Club brochure for full details on other proposals at the WCS dump.

May 21 - Texas grants WCS the by-product disposal license for the already-onsite, flyash-cement-solidified Fernald K-65 residues (as well as future additional by-product materials), despite the inadequacy of this treatment method to maintain waste isolation for the duration of the hazard period, which in this case is well over 100,000 years. TCEQ's response to comments indicates that there are 22,600 Curies in the Fernald Silo 1 and 2 wastes. Texas says the site geology will be sufficient to prevent groundwater contamination for at least the minimum period required: 200 years (Technical Criterion 6 of NRC's 10CFR40 Appendix A); the state 'regulator' doesn't care that the underlying aquifer will be irretrievably contaminated at some point after that. According to EPA Region 6, the WCS site lies over the edge of the huge Ogallala Aquifer, drinking water source for much of the central USA.
Texas sets the following grossly inadequate financial assurance requirements (all in 2004 dollars): $4.3 million for decommissioning, $72 thousand for post-operational surveillance, and $723 thousand for long-term care.

Given that WCS is politically well connected, this approval in the face of notable TCEQ expert opposition raises serious questions.

[unloading solidified waste from shipping container]
Unloading solidified waste from
a shielding shipping container

July 11 - Lone Star Sierra Club sues Texas for a contested case hearing to review its grant to WCS of an 11.e(2) byproduct disposal facility license; see ENS news story. Perhaps the 1995 NAS/NRC panel (which recommended vitrification of the NFSS residues) would be interested in commenting on this Texas K-65 cemented-flyash waste disposal approval.

September 8 - WCS rolls out support at hearing for the nation's next big radioactive waste dump; see local coverage and Nuclear Waste News.

2009

January 14 - Texas board (TCEQ) grants a license to Waste Control Specialists for a huge Low-Level Radioactive Waste disposal facility after dismissing a request by Sierra Club for a contested hearing to air site unsuitablility issues. This 28 million cubic feet/1 million Curies disposal site is likely to become the nation's largest LLRW dump. See Dallas Morning News story, PRN story, and ENS story for more details.

The following excerpt from a January 18 story in the Austin American-Statesman by Asher Price further details the revolving door between the Texas Council on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the regulated community, in this case, Waste Control Specialists:

"Four people have served in and left the executive director spot of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 1994. All of them now work, one way or another, for industries they once regulated.
An engineer by training, Jeff Saitas rose through the ranks at the environmental office before getting appointed by the commissioners as executive director in 1998. But by 2002, at the age of 42, and with three young children, he decided to leave the office.
"The fundamental problem is, government doesn't pay competitively," Saitas said.
As executive director, Saitas was paid about $132,000 in 2002.
In 2003 he was paid at least $360,000 by consulting clients, according to records at the Texas Ethics Commission.
In 2008, according to records at the Ethics Commission, he was paid as much as $50,000 by Waste Control Specialists as it successfully lobbied the environmental commission to approve a permit to bury radioactive waste at its Andrews facility despite warnings from the environmental agency's staff that Waste Control Specialists' application was incomplete."

In his February 8, 2009 story, Asher Price details WCS contributions to Governor Perry:

"Waste Control Specialists is owned by investor Harold Simmons, who was the third-largest single contributor to Gov. Rick Perry during the 2006 election cycle, donating $315,000, according to Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics. Since 2001, Simmons' contributions to Perry have totaled more than $500,000."

Also see Texans for Public Justice piece on WCS political donations for the period 1997 to 2001.

March 6 - Billionaire owner of WCS, Harold Simmons, benefits from a $75 million public bond offered to WCS by the Andrews County Board for development of new LLRW dump. The private dump will cease operations after 30 years after making billions for the owner; it will then become the responsibility of the State government to caretake the site for millenia. What a system: privatize the upfront profit and have the public carry the long term management burdens.

Waste Texas, by Forrest Wilder

[Image: Radwaste drums (12kb)]

May 9 - Recount requested after Andrews County voters barely approve $75 million bond issue to support construction of WCS nuclear waste dump.

Due to the way the proposal was worded, voters may not have understood that approval of the bond means that the County will own the land, equipment and buildings that will comprise this huge, new radioactive waste dump and will lease it back to WCS for the 30 short years that WCS operates it; see Houston Chronicle, May 14, 2009, and Texas Observer story by Forrest Wilder, May 15, 2009. The bond issue election was paid for by WCS according to the Burnt Orange Report.


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