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Proposed nuclear site in Andrews could ‘shut down’ oil industry

Representatives of Fasken Oil and Ranch spoke Wednesday at a hearing on a proposed nuclear waste storage site in Andrews County, which they said could impact the oil industry across the Permian Basin.

“The most concerning thing for us is our communities and our workers in the oilfield and that potential contamination,” said Tommy Taylor, Fasken director of Oil and Gas Development, in an interview.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Fasken and different environmental groups spoke before a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel. The opposing parties raised contentions they have with Interim Storage Partners’ proposal to build a temporary nuclear waste storage facility.

The NRC will decide based on the hearing which contentions they will consider as they review the application. One of the contentions Fasken presented was that the establishment of a temporary storage facility would take pressure off the government to establish a permanent storage location.

“We don’t think the NRC should even be considering an interim storage site because the law says there needs to be a permanent repository,” Taylor said.

He said there was a possibility the casks that would store the waste could be opened in an industrial accident or a terrorist attack.

“If those casks get open, they are full of the most toxic substance mankind has ever made,” Taylor said. “The radiological release would be astronomical.”

He said during a commission on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the attackers stated they considered flying into a nuclear power plant.

“We’re in the middle of the Permian Basin, the biggest oilfield in the world,” Taylor said. “It’s a security problem. You couldn’t tee it up any better for a terroristic threat.”

Taylor said there was also a possibility the casks containing the nuclear waste could be damaged in a train collision. The casks would be transported through Midland County’s railroad lines.

He said transporting the waste through Midland and Odessa was a risk to the oil industry, and could “really, literally shut us down.”

“Even if the cask was protected, just think about the evacuation and response necessary and what that would do to the oil and gas community,” Taylor said about potential train collisions. Taylor said there was a nuclear waste accident in a Carlsbad mine in 2014. He said the event shut down production in the mine for three years and cost the industry $2 billion.

He said a similar incident could occur in the Permian Basin and affect the oil industry.

Taylor said supporters of the nuclear storage site have said it will diversify Andrews County’s economy and add 200 jobs. He said that’s not worth the risk.

“Do we want to risk our livelihood and our security as a nation for 200 jobs? Really?” Taylor said. “And our unemployment is the lowest in the nation.

“The Permian Basin’s the largest oilfield in the world right now. We’re making 4 1/2 million barrels of oil a day. It’s critical for the state of Texas. Our energy security as a nation is much better than it’s been in my entire lifetime, because of the Permian Basin. Why would we want any risk upon that?”

Beyond Nuclear, Sierra Club and Don’t Waste Michigan also spoke at the hearing Wednesday, raising contentions about the possible environmental impact of the project.

Source: Midland Reporter-Telegram


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