Why a West Texas Nuclear Dump May Be a Short-Term Fix

Jun 28, 2016
David Bowser / Texas Tribune

A West Texas site wants to get its hands on the nation’s spent nuclear fuel. And if a National Academy of Sciences report is to be believed, this may be safer than the status quo.

Spent nuclear fuel rods are about the width of a Sharpie, a few yards long and deadly for hundreds of thousands of years. And, even after 60 years of commercial nuclear power, the Department of Energy (DOE) has no storage plan.

Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Texas Tribune

Natural gas, coal, wind are the resources that usually come to mind when we think about power generation in Texas. But a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey estimates Texas has enough uranium underground to power nuclear plants across the country for five years.

The USGS assessment found a 60-million-ton concentration of unmined uranium oxide embedded in sandstone under the Texas Coastal Plain – a deposit that, if developed, the agency estimates could supply a year’s worth of power to U.S. nuclear reactors.

Courtesy: Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

In some part of the world, including a site near the Texas-New Mexico border, nuclear waste is kept in rock salt deposits deep underground.  It’s long been thought that these geologic formations were some of the safest places to store humankind’s most toxic waste, but new research suggests those places may not be as safe as we thought.

CC0 Public Domain

From Texas Standard:

Seventy years ago this week, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mike Cox is an author and award-winning journalist, he writes that Texas’ Padre Island was on the short list for testing the bomb.

On how close Padre Island was to becoming a test site:

“South Padre Island was one of eight sites that the U.S. Military considered as a place to explode the first atomic bomb. And it actually came down to about three sites that were pretty high on the list: one was in California, one was the Alamagordo site in New Mexico and the other one was South Padre Island — which, admittedly, at the time was pretty remote. But eventually they decided on blowing up that first device in New Mexico.”

U.S. Accuses Russia Of Violating Nuclear Treaty

Jul 29, 2014

The Obama administration says Russia has violated a 1987 nuclear pact by testing a ground-launched cruise missile.

An administration official called the matter "very serious" and says the U.S. is "prepared to discuss this in a senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately." The New York Times reports that President Obama notified Russian President Vladimir Putin of the finding in a letter Monday.

STP Nuclear Operating Company

Austin Energy is getting some of its power again from the South Texas Project. STP is a nuclear power source in the Bay City area where one of four reactors was offline for the past few months because of a fire outside the unit.

On Tuesday it started operating again.


Update: UT Politics and East Asia expert Patricia Maclachlan says nuclear weapons are North Korea’s only way to get the U.S. to the negotiating table.

“It has nothing else going for it. It’s the only negotiating card that it really has to get what it wants from the outside world," she says.

But the threat does beg the question: Why Austin?

Not only might North Korea's third underground explosion of an atomic device be a sign that it is closer to having a weapon that's light enough to be put on a missile, it seems to be a not-so-subtle message aimed at the U.S.