Letter to the Editor

In just a few days, the people of Culberson County will go to the

polls to elect members of the County government.  Elections such as

these are commonly considered small affairs with little significance.

But the upcoming election could turn out to be quite consequential.

Since last summer, a battle has been pitched regarding an Interim

Storage Site for High-Level Nuclear Waste.  The site was to be located

about 9 miles North of Kent, Texas, at the Eastern edge of Culberson

County.  It was to be licensed to store some of the most hazardous

waste in existence, namely, so-called “spent” reactor fuel rods.

These rods contain mostly Uranium and some Plutonium.  The Plutonium

is created while the rods irradiate each other in the reactor.  The

term “spent” has a highly specific meaning when applied to nuclear

fuel, which is very misleading to those who are unaware of this.  Most

people will reckon that, when fuel is described as “spent”, it means

that it has lost its power. For nuclear fuel, that would mean that it

has lost its radiation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The

fuel is removed from the reactor, not because it has lost its power,

but because it has become so radioactive that it cannot be controlled

like new fuel rods, and has become a threat to the people who operate

the reactor.

This is what they want us to store in Culberson County.

Since June 2015, Judge Urias has articulated a single point of view:

he was interested in the money that AFCI, the organization vying to

set up the storage site, was promising to push his way.  I understand

that a County Judge is charged with promoting the interests of a

County.  But this includes not only the County’s financial well-being,

but its long-term safety as well.

Since the time that AFCI first approached the County, Judge Urias has

characterized those who opposed the Storage Site as “radicals”, and

“bullies”. He could have reached out to them to attempt to discover

what else they might know that would lead them to a different

conclusion.  But he only ignored, dismissed and attacked them.  He

expended no effort to reach out to opponents who had looked into the


The proposal of AFCI now seems dead.  But that does not matter.  The

County Commissioners’ Court treated the entire issue in a highly

partisan and autocratic way, and exhibited a willingness to expose us

all to danger simply to get ahold of the financial enticements which

AFCI dangled before them.  And Urias has indicated that he would not

have another public meeting if another deal presented itself.

And all the while, Urias has claimed that the scheme would pass

“unanimously”, if actually put to vote.  This means that the current

County Commissioners also support the Storage Site.  Some of these

commissioners are now standing for election.  At a minimum, residents

of Culberson County should ask these commissioners why the very real

risks of an Interim Storage Site for High-Level Nuclear Waste have not

been duly considered.  Or maybe the voters should just throw them out.

Feb 6,7,8 2016

Willie Simmons

P.O. Box 284

Van Horn TX 79855


[email protected]