Contract awarded for disposal facility in Texas

06 August 2008

Waste Control Specialists (WCS), a subsidiary of Valhi, has awarded a contract to URS to lead the design and construction of a new low-level radioactive waste (LLW) facility in Andrews County, Texas.

WCS - Andrews County 
WCS's Andrews County facility (Image: WCS)
The three-year, $80 million contract includes the addition of a railway loop and facilities for unloading waste from rail cars, as well as the construction of two landfills for different categories of radioactive waste.

In May, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) gave the go-ahead for the disposal radioactive by-product material at WCS's Andrews County facility. The new licence allows WCS to permanently dispose of by-product material, which the company describes as residues left over from uranium mining, including uranium or thorium mill tailings as well as equipment, pipes and other material used to handle and process mill tailings. WCS expects to start disposing of by-product material in early 2009.

WCS has also applied to TCEQ for a licence to dispose of LLW and is awaiting a decision by TCEQ. The company plans to dispose of solid or solidified LLW received from generators in Texas and Vermont, as members of the Texas Compact, as well as LLW and mixed LLW from the federal government. WCS plans to start disposing of LLW in 2010.

Rodney Baltzer, president of WCS, said: "We will immediately begin constructing the facilities for unloading hazardous waste and for disposal of radioactive by-product material since licences and contracts for those operations have already been secured." However, he added, "We will not begin construction of the LLW disposal landfill until the TCEQ issues a licence. We expect a draft LLW licence to be issued by the TCEQ in the near future."

The construction of the by-product landfill is a significant step, according to Baltzer, as its operation will be very similar to operations that would be permitted under the LLW licence.

"Both landfills would be on the 1300 acres (526 hectares) we have already permitted through the TCEQ. The landfills will have similar designs, with disposal in the site's almost impenetrable red bed claystones," he said, adding that WCS has more than 10 years experience disposing of hazardous and toxic waste at its site.

Commenting on the award of the contract, Baltzer said: "URS has been significantly involved in the licensing of our facilities and is very familiar with our site. URS used that knowledge in a competitive bidding process to provide the best value for WCS and we look forward to working with them on the construction of the new facilities."

In November 2007, URS completed its purchase of Washington Group International, which has subsequently become the company's Washington Division. In April, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) awarded a contract, worth some £125 million ($250 million), to the UK Nuclear Waste Management consortium - led by URS's Washington Division - for the management and operation of the Drigg low-level radioactive waste repository in Cumbria.

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