COLUMBUS — Low-level radioactive waste from Nebraska Public Power District’s nuclear facility may soon be heading to Texas.
The district’s board of directors approved an agreement last month that would send a portion of the low-level waste from Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville to a storage facility outside Andrews, Texas.
While the deal to ship a “relatively small amount” of radioactive resins, filters and other equipment to the Texas Compact Waste Disposal Facility hasn’t been finalized, a $3.1 million environmental services agreement between NPPD and Waste Control Specialists was adopted by the utility.
Alan Dostal, corporate nuclear business manager at NPPD, said the district hasn’t been able to dispose of certain categories of low-level radioactive waste for years after a failed government effort to create storage facilities.
The proposed deal would send materials classified as B and C, the most radioactive of the low-level waste, to the only facility in the U.S. willing to accept it. NPPD plans to join a group of electric utilities, known as the Utility Services Alliance, looking to transport nuclear waste to the Texas facility once importation agreements are in place and Waste Control Specialists begins operations there.
The Utility Services Alliance has a six-year contract with Waste Control Specialists that requires members to dispose of at least 3,075 cubic feet of contaminated materials over that time, or pay a fee based on the shortfall amount.
Currently, NPPD stores class B and C waste from Cooper Nuclear Station in on-site pools that also hold used nuclear fuel rods.
Class A materials, such as oil, grease and clothing exposed to radioactivity, are sent to a facility near Clive, Utah. NPPD has a $2 million annual budget to dispose of this waste, Dostal said.
During 2010, Cooper Nuclear Station produced 4,365 cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste.
High-level radioactive waste — used fuel from the nuclear reactor — is also stored on-site in both the spent fuel pool and special containers completed last year.
The fuel-rod bundles, about 14 feet in length and 10 inches in diameter, were supposed to be accepted at a national repository beginning in 1998.
However, that facility, originally designated to be Yucca Mountain in Nevada, was never established.
“They basically have failed with this project,” Dostal said.
This forced NPPD to construct the more than $60 million storage area at Cooper for fuel rods, which are replaced every 24 months.
The district was paid $60.5 million through a settlement with the U.S. Department of Energy in July 2011, and will continue to receive payments to cover the ongoing storage costs.
NPPD customers have paid more than $167 million into an account managed by the Department of Energy to establish a national nuclear storage facility since 1983.