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Friday, August 17, 2012

Residents question Millstone’s radioactive waste plan

Concerns about the New London site becoming a permanent radioactive waste dump
Radioactive waste on fire at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan
By Will Collette

On Wednesday night, the “informational meeting” on the Millstone nuclear power plant’s proposal to dramatically increase the amount of nuclear waste it has in long-term storage went ahead as planned in Waterford CT’s Town Hall.

As you may recall, this troubled nuclear power plant, only 20 miles west, upwind from Charlestown, was recently shut down because record sea water temperatures made that water too hot to use to cool its nuclear reactor.

Great location for a nuclear waste dump
Dominion Energy, Millstone’s owner, had a group of its executives on hand to respond to questions and comments from the approximately 50 people who attended.

Try to wrap your mind around this figure: 1638 metric tons. That works out to 3,611,135 pounds. Put in terms that our Charlestown gentry can understand, this is almost the exact same weight as ONE THOUSAND Porsche 911’s just like the ones that Town Council President Tom Gentz likes to collect.

This is the amount of radioactive waste that is currently being stored just 20 miles due west of Charlestown in the pools and storage facilities of the Millstone nuclear power plant just outside of New London.

Dominion currently has 19 “dry cask” storage units on site to store waste on a long-term basis. Dominion just recently received permission to increase that number to 40, and would like to boost that number to 135 to store all of its waste from all of its reactors from now until the plant’s scheduled decommissioning in 2045.

Some residents were not happy about the prospect of semi-permanent, on-site storage. One audience member who refused to give her name asked whatever happened to the promise given to communities that “host” nuclear power plants that there would be a permanent, off-site remote nuclear repository for the waste.

She wanted to know if Waterford was going to become a permanent nuclear waste site. The answer from Kevin Hennessey, Dominion northeastern governmental affairs director: "Your guess is as good as ours right now….We have to believe the federal government will take care of this." 

And the check is in the mail.

According to the New London Day’s coverage, Ellen Gottfried of Waterford asked, "In light of this storage problem in this country, and in the world, are they building more nuclear power plants?" she asked.

“Yes,” said the Dominion officials.

"Too bad," said Gottfried.

As I wrote earlier, the dry cask storage method proposed by Dominion is far safer than storing the radioactive waste in shallow, water-filled pools as many of them are now.

This standard method of storing nuclear power plant waste showed its most serious flaw when the pools were breached at the Fukushima power plant by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Once the water level drops and the nuclear rods are exposed, there is a tremendous risk they will catch fire and spread a highly radioactive toxic cloud over thousands of square miles.

The problem facing local resident, as well as those of us who live downwind, is that those 3.6 million pounds of radioactive waste is that this waste is not going anywhere anytime soon. Indeed, this dump site may be a permanent fixture just right down the road for 10,000 years.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Dominion’s chief engineer at Millstone admitted when questioned by a local resident that these fuel rods are “immensely radioactive.”

But at least they’re not wind turbines.