Friday, Attorney General George Jepsen announced a decision by the federal appeals court that allows nuclear power plants to hold onto their spent nuclear fuel (i.e. nuclear waste) for up to 30 years after the plant was shut down, instead of 60.
Spokesman Ken Holt was unsure if this would affect Millstone, which has had two plants operating and one shut down since 1998, and has been storing nuclear spent fuel on site since 18 months after it first opened in 1971. For Holt and the rest of the nuclear industry, the push has always been to have , something the federal government has promised in law but has never delivered.
“They are responsible by law for the spent fuel,” said Holt, who was not sure if the ruling would affect the power station in any way.
Originally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that plants could hold on to nuclear spent fuel for 60 years after they were shut down. Several states – including Connecticut - challenged that ruling in court, arguing plants should only be able to keep their nuclear spent fuel on site for 30 years.
The federal appeals court agreed with the states, saying the NRC did not consider “future dangers and key consequences” of having the fuel stored on site, according to press release from Jepsen’s office. Jepsen called it a “landmark” decision.
“This is a critical decision for Connecticut and other states with nuclear power plants,” Jepsen said. “It means the federal regulators must make a full and comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impact of before allowing additional decades of storage of high-level nuclear waste at reactor sites.”
Aside from Millstone, Connecticut has one other decommissioned plant, Connecticut Yankee in Haddam. That site will now be able to hold its waste for 30 years since when it was closed, instead of 60.
How It Applies To Millstone
Holt was not sure if it would apply to Millstone or not. There are three nuclear power plants at the Waterford site, Unit 1, 2 and 3, with Unit 1 being decommissioned in 1998 but Unit 2 and 3 still running.
Therefore, Millstone has stored spent nuclear fuel from Unit 1 on site for the past 14 years after the plant was closed. However, the site is still active, and Holt was unsure if the ruling affects Millstone.
It still remains unclear what would happen with the waste after 30 years, as there is no place to put it. President Barack Obama has cancelled plans for a repository to be built at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, and instead formed a committee to look into the issue.