Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Right Back Where We Started From

The Nuclear Energy Institute is praising legislation Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski has introduced that would create two federal interim storage facilities to begin consolidating used nuclear fuel from U.S. nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Fuel Storage Improvement Act (S. 1320), comes in the aftermath of the Obama administration's decision deny funding for the permanent nuclear waste repository that the federal government had already approved for Yucca Mountain in Nevada (shown at left).

That decision, which many contend was the result of pressure from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) leaves the U.S. government without a permanent storage facility to accept used fuel from commercial nuclear facilities as required by federal law.

It is way too soon to say where these interim storage facilities might be located or even if the bill will pass.

But any state with a nuclear power plant - including Connecticut - ought to be worried. Because once these interim facilities have been sited, it will be that much more difficult to develop one central repository.

There are two places where spent nuclear fuel is stored in Connecticut. Some of it is at the site of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford; the other spent fuel storage location is in Haddam Neck, on the site of the decommissioned and demolished Connecticut Yankee plant.

Alex Flint, senior vice president for governmental affairs for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said Tuesday that “the events in Japan this year at Fukushima Daiichi have focused renewed attention on used fuel storage."

"While America’s used commercial fuel is stored safely and securely at each commercial reactor, federal law requires that the federal government move the fuel to a repository," Flint said in a statement. "“Central storage is part of an integrated used nuclear fuel management system that will provide safe and secure stewardship of this material while allowing research on advanced fuel treatment technology options, and development of a permanent repository for ultimate disposal of used nuclear fuel or resulting byproducts."

Of course, you don't see Mr. Flint volunteering to have any spent fuel repository in his backyard. And that's part of the problem with this interim plan: What state or region is going to "volunteer" to host one of these things, as Nuclear Energy Institute suggests is going to happen.

Even with incentives to host such a facility and the potential for job creation that Nuclear Energy Institute contends will likely follow, it seems highly unlikely that any political leader would volunteer his constituents for such a role.

Just ask Harry Reid.

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