In July 1990, Gov. William P. Clements signed the Agreement in Principle (AIP) between the State of Texas and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This agreement enables the state to help protect human health and safety and the environment at and around the Pantex Plant through environmental oversight and emergency response.
The DOE owns the Pantex Plant, located in Carson County about 17 miles northeast of Amarillo. The facility both assembles and dismantles nuclear weapons. It began as a conventional bomb plant during World War II, then was sold to Texas Tech University at the war's end. The federal government reclaimed the plant at the beginning of the Cold War.
As part of the DOE weapons complex, Pantex assembled the parts that were sent by other facilities around the nation. Those other facilities engaged in activities that produced both hazardous and radioactive waste. While the plan was for significant amounts of radioactive waste to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), delays in opening the WIPP resulted in the waste being stored on site, especially at the Idaho National Environmental Laboratory and the Rocky Flats Plant near Boulder, Colo.
Beginning in the 1970s, governors whose states hosted weapons plants began petitioning DOE for assistance in cleaning up the sites. Gov. Cecil Andress of Idaho eventually filed a lawsuit. In 1989, the U.S. Justice Department, along with the FBI, the State of Colorado and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, raided the Rocky Flats Plant. Significant environmental hazards were uncovered, and the plant was shut down.
Those actions culminated in then-Energy Secretary James Watkins proposing an AIP between DOE and those states hosting nuclear defense facilities, focusing on environmental cleanup. Emergency response activities were added to the agreement, and a number of states signed on.
In Texas, the program is administered by the Pantex Program of the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO). The work is divided between emergency response and environmental cleanup, with a number of state and local governmental agencies doing the work.