Who’s on the Hook in Texas for all That Radioactive Waste?

A commission in Austin is poised to vote
on new rules
that could allow Texas (specifically, Harold
Simmons’ Waste Control Specialists) to accept more radioactive
waste than it already can. We’ve discussed this topic here before.
Laray Polk did a Q&A with TCEQ spokesperson Terry Clawson
on the topic of who’ll be responsible for all this
waste. Liability is a subject Texans might want to become
conversant in. According to the TCEQ, “Texas’ is site owner and has
title to all waste at the Texas Compact disposal facility,
regardless of whether the waste is generated by party states or is
allowed for importation from out-of-compact through an agreement.”
Laray Polk: Michael Ford, chair of the
Compact Commission, testified before the Sunset Advisory
Commission
this week (Dec. 15). He stated that WCS
has put up $180 million in escrow (possibly in the form of bonds)
to cover liability. I include below a portion of the LLRW license that
covers “Financial Assurance and Qualifications” (pp 39-40). Is it
possible for someone to explain in crystal clear terms how much WCS
has (or will) put up for assurance; what it covers; and what
portion will possibly returned to them?

TCEQ: Financial assurance
amounts are based on normal condition assumptions for estimating
funds needed to reach successful closure, decommissioning, and for
continued passive monitoring of the land disposal facility.
Required financial assurance amounts that total $138 million (2009
dollars) are set for the entire land disposal facility, including
both the Compact waste disposal facility portion of the site, as
well as the Federal waste disposal facility. There are also
additional financial assurance requirements for the Federal waste
disposal facility due to the planned acceptance of mixed hazardous
low-level radioactive waste at that facility, that are not required
for the Compact waste disposal facility portion. Financial
assurance amounts do not include funding estimates, with the
exception of the corrective action funds, for failures or
correction of problematic conditions at the land disposal facility
during any phase. Financial assurance does not equate to future
liability or risk associated with either the Texas Compact disposal
facility or the Federal waste disposal facility. The following are
the financial assurance amounts specified in the TCEQ radioactive
material license, R04100, authorizing both the Compact waste
disposal facility and the Federal waste disposal facility for the
first year of operations and due sixty (60) days prior to beginning
disposal operations: Closure $ 80,871,000 (in 2009 dollars)
Post-Closure $ 10,379,000 (in 2009 dollars) Institutional Control $
21,252,000 (in 2009 dollars) Corrective Action $ 25,600,000 (in
2009 dollars) Total for Financial Assurance in 1st Year $
138,102,000 (in 2009 dollars) Where: Closure Costs – The closure
cost estimate in Operational Year 1 is for placement of final cover
on any open disposal unit and for off-site disposal of staged waste
awaiting disposal at the time of an unexpected closure. Operational
closure costs are to be provided based on a year-by-year estimate
that varies according to projected stages of operations.
Post-Closure Costs – The post-closure cost estimate in Operational
Year 1 is for facility monitoring and collection of disposal unit
leachate based on the fractional volume of waste projected in the
first year. The amount takes into account the cumulative fractional
volume of waste present every year. Post-closure care periods for
the Compact waste disposal facility and Federal waste disposal
facility are required to be 5 and 30 years, respectively.
Institutional Control Costs – Institutional control costs are
similar to those required for post-closure with the exception that
institutional control spans 100 years, and requires less intensive
monitoring and maintenance than during operations. These costs are
for passive maintenance and monitoring by TCEQ for the Compact
waste disposal facility and by DOE for the Federal waste disposal
facility. Corrective Action Costs – Corrective Action costs are
based on providing security if an unplanned failure or other event
occurred into the future. The modeled scenarios were possible
failure of the disposal unit liner at different locations within
the facility. Corrective action tasks identified with associated
costs included cover excavation, waste excavation, liner repair,
canisters/waste replacement, backfill replacement, and cover
replacement. The total cost for the modeled failure scenario is
$72.2M. This total amount is prorated over 15 years starting with a
Opertional Year 1 value of $25.3M and increasing $3.39M per year.
LP: Ford’s response about financial
assurance came as a result of questions regarding out-of-compact waste and current law. According to the Sunset Advisory Commission’s
interpretation, “Texas, and not the Compact Commission nor the
disposal facility licensee, holds liability for compact waste
brought into the state.” What is TCEQ’s perspective under current
law as to which entity is liable for compact waste? When would
liability begin? Which entity is responsible for out-of-compact
waste and when would liability begin?
TCEQ: Under the 1980 Low-Level
Radioactive Waste Policy Act, Texas is responsible for the
management of low-level radioactive waste generated within its
borders. In 1993, Texas entered into a compact agreement (the Texas
Compact) with Vermont and Maine as the host for a low-level
radioactive disposal facility. In 2003, the Texas Legislature
passed amendments to Texas Health & Safety Code, Chapter
401, to shift from a state-controlled and operated disposal
facility to allowed a private for-profit venture. Under these
amendments, a license was granted to allow a separate and adjacent
federal waste disposal facility in addition to the Texas Compact
disposal facility. The private operator must indemnify the State of
Texas for any liability associated with the disposal of federal
waste at the adjacent facility. The TCEQ, on behalf of the State of
Texas, must be the fee simple owner of the land and buildings for
the planned Texas Compact waste disposal facility prior to the
construction and operations of the land disposal facility. Texas
will take title and be responsible for all low-level radioactive
waste upon acceptance for disposal into the Texas Compact disposal
facility. Under current law, Texas’ is site owner and has title to
all waste at the Texas Compact disposal facility, regardless of
whether the waste is generated by party states or is allowed for
importation from out-of-compact through an agreement. Financial
assurance required by TCEQ license is not intended to estimate all
future liability and/or risk associated with either the Texas
Compact disposal facility or the Federal waste disposal
facility.

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