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Public Voices Concerns About More Nuclear Waste In Waterford

At a public forum by Dominion, neighbors voiced their concerns about Millstone increasing its capacity for nuclear waste, although said there is little other choice.

At a public forum Wednesday night, neighbors and an anti-nuclear activist raised concerns about Millstone Power Station’s plans to , although most agreed there was no other option.

“I feel bad for the people growing up in this area,” said Ed Saller, who lives within 2,000 feet of Millstone. “We have a dysfunctional government, I don’t know how they can ever solve this issue.”

Dominion, owners of Millstone, are asking the Connecticut Siting Council if they can put on the top layer of a nearly two-acre concrete pad that would hold nearly 60 years of nuclear waste in dry cask storage. Right now, Millstone has 19 dry cask storage units on site, 18 of which hold nuclear waste, and Dominion is looking to build a cement pad that could hold an additional 116 dry cask storage units.

The town of Waterford and East Lyme had Dominion hold a public forum Wednesday night where they described what they were planning to do and took questions from the audience. Many audience members voiced concerns or asked questions about the project.

“I don’t know how anybody could live within 2,000 feet of this and not be concerned,” Ed Saller’s wife Laurette Saller said. “But there really is no alternative.”

The Issue

Millstone holds the majority of its nuclear waste in spent fuel pools within the reactors, which are 40-foot deep pools of boron-infused water. Those pools are filling up, so Millstone has begun to store the waste in dry cask storage containers outside the reactors.

The dry cask storage containers are a passive air-cooled system, meaning they don’t require any motors to cool the nuclear waste. Millstone has already built 19 such structures, and is looking to eventually build another 116 as needed.

The first step in that process is to build a 500-foot cement pad that could hold the remaining 116 units. The Connecticut Siding Council already approved Millstone to do the “underground” work to install such a pad in 2004, and now the company will soon apply to put the top layer of cement on to finish the job.

Then, the company will build the dry cask storage units as needed. But the real point is that this should never have to be built, as the federal government promised it would put the , said Kevin Hennessy, Dominion's Director of Governmental Affairs in New England.

“(The federal government) is mandated to do so, but they haven’t lived up to their responsibility,” Hennessy said. “We don’t want to be in the business of storing fuel.”

Neighbors and other residents agreed, voicing concerns about having so much nuclear waste in Waterford. But with the government the way it is, it is unlikely for there to be a solution any time soon, Ed Saller said.

Saller pointed out that the state government, which is mainly Democrats, could not decide on a small repository in South Windsor to store the fuel. He said the federal government, which is heavily divided between the two parties, is even less likely to get anything done.

Dominion officials said they were not happy about holding all the waste as well. The country spent billions of dollars trying to turn Yucca Mountain into a national repository, but the Obama Administration has since stopped that project, they said.

“We are as frustrated as you are with this process,” Brian Wakeman of Dominion said.

Voiced Concerns

The public brought up a variety of questions, such as the radioactivity of the dry cask storage containers to what the site can handle. Wakeman said the radioactivity of the dry cask storage containers is almost zero, and the containers can withstand both a flood and a direct hit from an airplane.

Dominion officials said they are considering having the dry cask storage units being built on-site, instead of being shipped from other parts of the country. Building them on-site would mean more jobs for the area, Hennessy said.

Some neighbors complained about the noise during construction, although Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the noise will be relatively minor, as it is mainly just pouring concrete. Other residents asked for Millstone to build a sound-barrier, but Waterford Planning Director Tom Wagner said sound barriers only work if they are built directly in front of the person’s house, and would not be effective right outside the construction area. The reason is sound jumps, Wagner said.

Each dry cask storage container holds 32 fuel assemblies, Wakeman said. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has agreed that the dry cask storage containers are good for at least 60 years, he said.

Town’s Take

After the meeting, Wagner said he had no issue with Millstone’s plans. He did say though that the real issue is having the waste removed, so that if Millstone leaves, the site is still usable.

Wagner said that no national repository is built, the nuclear waste will have to stay there forever and the property will not be marketable. Only by removing the waste is there a chance for the property to be reused for any other purpose but a nuclear power plant, he said.

Max August 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Yucca Mountain is not the answer. Pushing this problem across thousands of miles as if "out of sight, out of mind" is just delusional - though it will be repeatedly used as the rationale for maintaining a potentially highly volatile waste from nuclear fussion on site. These spent rods remain radioactive for between 100,000 and 200,000 years. Seas are rising (and noted) along our shoreline. This makes Millstone a potential threat to the region. Our rates are the highest in the continental US. Political system cannot solve because there are jobs and tax receipts at stake. It means thinking through and planning a transition, something elected officials find challenging given the continuous election cycle. The problem will NOT go away with a status quo, hope for the best and put the residents of SE CT (and beyond) in the hands of Dominion (cask storage solution).
Paul Petrone (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Yucca Mountain, or whatever the national repository would be, isn't just putting the problem "out of sight, out of mind." The purpose of repository is do exactly what you said - hold the waste for thousands of years without any issues. This way, in say 200 years when Dominion is no longer a company or the power plants are no longer in use, the fuel is still stored in safe place. The federal government promised to build such a repository when these plants were first built, and the federal government is the technically the owner of the spent nuclear fuel, not the power plants. The rising water is a concern, and I was told something interesting by J.W. "Bill" Sheehan last night: he said everything you need for a nuclear power plant is everything you shouldn't have for a repository. So being next to a body of water is key for a nuclear power plant, but obviously not ideal for a repository for thousands of years. It is more of a reason to have this repository, as these sites were not built to hold fuel long term.
Ron August 16, 2012 at 01:29 PM
As opposed to the above comments, Yucca Mountain is the permanent solution to this particular issue. In the interim until a real leaders can prevail, storage of fuel cannisters on concrete pads as done at Millstone and around the world, has a safety factor equal to any engineering consideration on earth. Yucca Mountain has been studied for over 2 decades and has been found geologically stable. Anti nuclear advocates claim that small water intrusion is possible, but that analysis does not counter the scientific evidence that Yucca Flats is more than adequately stable for the safe storage of nuclear material. The robust nature of the spent fuel cannisrters themselves assure they can withstand erosion, corrosion, high impact damage, fire, sea water submersion, and other theoretical disasters, Regretfullt though this solution can not protect against political manipulation and ignorance. People who do not believe scientific analysis are the same people that say radio waves are not safe, walking under ladders causes bad luck, and haunted houses are real. The greatest danger to Waterford and America is not nuclear fuel storage but the absolute lack of honesty, courage and leadership in American politics today. The only reason there is above ground storage of nuclear material in America is Harry Reid's opposition, which was supported and endorsed by Obama as a political plum for re -election to the detriment of every man, woman and child in this nation.
E Waldron August 16, 2012 at 03:21 PM
And the Waterford taxes just keep rising for the residents. What will this eventually cost us? The few jobs it brings will not be worth it. It is a specialty, and they will bring in outside workers. We have incompetent town officials that are not up to the task. Just look at the WHS project it's a great example of half assed planning. Dominion is not a Connecticut corporate based company. They are not vested in our state they will not act in the best interest of Connecticut. They are only loyal to THEIR bottom line and possibly their home state. I'm sure the town is trying to figure out another way to tax the residents and offer Dominion some tax incentive breaks. Wondering what percentage of Dominion workers actually live in Waterford? What has Dominion done for Waterford lately?
Daniella Ruiz August 16, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Just as other 'excess material" was disposed of (they once called it "The Dump" and now call it "The Transfer Station"), it will be a political hot-potatoe regardless of where it goes. Someone will always whine and complain. With the lack of intelligence demonstrated by our public officials AND the lack of faith in them by so many of the population, this will remain at a standstill, no one with the courage to actually act, for fear they will 'make a mistake'. This will remain the 'status quo' until some disaster happens, then all hell will break loose, various fingers won't be able to swivel fast enough pointing every which way at the cause, people will probably suffer (economically and physically) and NASA will continue to spend billions of dollars poking its nose into the Martian sand. The easiest way out of this is, to reduce usage of energy, slow population growth, and well, just keep on dreaming that life is a bowl of cherries..... Sounds crazy? Sure as heck is, just as is the political nonsense that prevents progress and change in this country. fact or fiction, it won't matter, we have dug ourselves a nice hole to live in, but at least we have iPods, 120 inch TV, 120 mph SUV's, ski trips to Aspen, sunny time in Antigua, and cold Pepsi-Cola at every Pakistani mini-mart.
Daniella Ruiz August 16, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Paul P>> yes, we often desire the optimal end to this energy demand, yet the quest to use more and more energy, simply compounds the ultimate answer. almost every 'toxic problem' we deal with is the result of agglomeration or a concentration of it into one form or another for a specific use, often that use will cost far more in the long run than it is worth. the byproducts of our 'easy life' may well be our very undoing.
John Sheehan August 16, 2012 at 07:34 PM
In actuality, although Dominion and other nuclear power plant owners pay for the nuclear fuel, the US Department of Energy remains in charge of and responsible for all fissionable material, no matter where it is located. That is why the federal government has the ultimate responsibiliity ot storing the spent fuel waste. That is why the NRC has on site monitors at all commercial nuclear power plants. That is why Admiral Rickover and his successors have personally interviewed every nuclear trained officer in the US NAVY. That was Rickover's compromise to keep the then AEC observers from riding all nuclear powered ships as reactor plant monitors.
Max August 16, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Daniella Ruiz I believe, if I read you right, we are in agreement. Connecticut (like the nation) needs to look at its energy needs and consumption. Nuclear energy has many issues, most of which we sweep under the rug, hoping that the worst won't happen and that "technology" will save us. These fundamental notions have major flaws (look at Fukushima or the BP Gulf "spill" for proof). We can beat these with pseudo-science and hair splitting but the fundamental truth is nuclear energy may be contained, but it is always vunerable to tempature changes, and natural disruptions. Simply sending these containers off to Yucca Mountain does NOT deal with these issues. First they must travel safety (an accident would cause unimaginable catastrophe beyond anything we have ever witnessed). Second, it wouldn't just be Millstone but hundreds of plants sending their radioactive waste across the nation! Millsone is decades old. Beneath its "foundation" are unknowns. We have no way of inspectiving what may be corroding under there. Very little of what is enriched is used. Most becomes waste, toxic and highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. Lastly these plants are centralized thus having major environmental impacts. A decentralization of energy sources, a careful use of our resources in consuming is essential as Daniella notes. This is old and aging technology. It is being milked for maximum profits.
William Terry August 17, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Yucca mountain is NOT the final answer, it is a temporary storage space for say the next 50, 100 or 500 years. In this time technology will find this material valuable to be reprocessed into safe products that have yet to be dreamed up. Get the rods out of the concrete garages in Waterford and into the mountains away from the population. Transporting the used rods to Yucca not a problem in the transportation containers they are already using.
Max August 17, 2012 at 01:35 AM
But who profits? Maybe there's something to this poorly stated phrase: "you didn't build it". The US (taxpayers) underwrite this while Dominion pockets enormous unearned profits. When this issue was raised by the CT Senate energy committee raised this (capture the unearned gains) folks in Waterford (and their delegation) got up in arms - don't touch "our" nuclear power plants - jobs jobs jobs (translates to votes votes votes). Meanwhile Dominion skips all the way to the bank with massive wind-fall profits. The corporation threatens to leave and folks jump. That's how the game is played. Only this is about very serious stuff: spent fuel rods with extremely high levels of radioactivity. Mr. Sheehan we're beyond monitoring. Upstream Yankee was shutdown. Took a while but it's decommissioned. You know why? When the cost of environmental exposure becomes high enough, this plant will shut down too. We should be preparing for that. When a storm strikes, and power outages trip through the state like falling dominoes the state's answer is to cut the tree line down (too many trees they quip!). We know, empirically, that when you decentalize your grid your outage rate is reduced and time out is significantly lowerd. Not one tree needs to be felled. We need to start thinking smart instead of plowing through every problem with such assinine solutions as eliminating our forest. And that goes for trucking tons upon tons of radioactive material so Yucca Mountain.
My 3 sons August 17, 2012 at 01:01 PM
still the question remains, they know this was a rock quarry years ago, built upon a fault line ,water levels rising etc. When the next 2.3 on the Richter scale or above hits ,what then? We are not immune here on the east coast, nor are we protected as much as we would like to think from potential attack. We used to have Loring Air force base as Strategic Air Command and other bases which used to protect us from land and sea have been decommissioned, what happens when some extremist group reads in the papers (or the patch <g>) how vulnerable and exposed Millstone is? I'm just sayin'

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