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West Texas a finalist for deep drill site to explore nuclear waste storage

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Written by Jeff Mosier at Dallas News


A Dallas company formerly owned by the late billionaire Harold Simmons has already applied to get tons of the nation’s nuclear waste stored temporarily in West Texas. Now, a public-private consortium is hoping to drill a hole three miles deep in West Texas to find new long-term radioactive waste storage.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced this week that the Texas site is one of four under consideration. Los Angeles-based AECOM, a construction and engineering firm, is leading the West Texas team with the assistance of the University of Texas’ Bureau of Economic Geology and Corpus Christi-based Orion Drilling Company. The other possible test sites include one in South Dakota and two in New Mexico.
“While there obviously won’t be any nuclear waste involved in this initial test, it will prove helpful as we continue to seek safe and environmentally appropriate solutions for what to do with the waste products currently stored at the surface,” said Texas’ state geologist Scott W. Tinker in a written statement.

The Energy Department is studying the feasibility of conducting a deep borehole field test, which is expected to cost about $20 million to $40 million. The primary goal is to see if dangerous radioactive waste can be stored at the bottom of these kinds of deep holes.

Only one site would be selected for the test if the Energy Department goes forward with this project. The first phase is scheduled to last through May and focus mainly on community outreach and some additional geological analysis. A drill site could be chosen by late summer or early fall.

AECOM, the lead contractor for the site near Fort Stockton in Pecos County, is a Fortune 500 company that designs, builds, finances and operates major infrastructure projects. The company is also part of the management team of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico as well as other major energy department facilities.

Federal officials have emphasized that the “field test site would not be used for future nuclear waste disposal.” Earlier planning for tests in North Dakota and South Dakota were opposed by many residents fearful this would require their communities to accept nuclear waste in the future.

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