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Dear Congress, Please Act to Find a Permanent Solution to the Problem of Nuclear Waste

East Lyme Board of Selectmen's letter asking for action on the issue of long term nuclear waste disposal arrives on the desks of the Connecticut delegation today.

As a small town located next door to a nuclear power plant, East Lyme doesn't have the power to solve the nation's problem of how to safely store nuclear waste. But as the neighbor of Dominion's Millstone nuclear power plant, it does have to live with it. So East Lyme Board of Selectmen decided to exercise the only power they have: the power of the pen. 

It's an election year, and nuclear power is a topic that often divides voters along philosophical lines. Like radioactive waste, many politicians don't want to touch it. For the people living next to a nuclear power plant in East Lyme, Waterford, and in towns all across the country, however, nuclear waste is a practical problem that requires federal action if there is to be a permanent solution. 

Today, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Joe Courtney will be receiving the following letter from the East Lyme Board of Selectmen, asking the Connecticut delegation to raise the issue at the federal level.

To The Honorable Connecticut Delegation,

As you are probably aware, Dominion Nuclear Power Plant, East Lyme's next door neighbor, has an application pending the the CT siting council to increase their on-site above ground dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuels. Dominion currently has 19 dry casks on site, of which 18 are already filled. If their application is approved, they would build an additional 135 above ground dry casks. 

While long term storage of spent nuclear fuels on individual sites may not be the best solution, currently it is the only solution. This letter from the East Lyme Board of Selectmen is not to criticize Dominion's plans or attempt to halt them. As a matter of fact, Dominion has proven to be a good neighbor, supporting many community ventures. Neither is this a letter to oppose nuclear power which we feel has been a benefit to Connecticut. Rather our concern is the inability of the federal government to arrive at a long term solution for a national site secure facility for the deposit of spent nuclear fuel.

Yucca Mountain is no longer under consideration after many years of study and millions of dollars expended. What does the future hold if the federal government cannot or will not meet their commitment to create a national site? The NRC's goal as stated in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, was to create such a national repository. On-site storage, the public was told, would only be on a temporary basis. The orginal intent was when the plant was de-commissioned the site would be returned to its natural state. Obviously this is an impossible goal, because even after all the building structures are demolished, the nuclear waste will remain on site. The vision was never one of having over a hundred mini Yucca Mountains.

Is this waste to remain at various installations forever? The waste will be there after the life of the plant and whose responsibility for security will that be? Millstone Unit 3, the newest of the Dominion plants, is scheduled for de-commissioning in 2045, which is a short 33 years away. Yes, 33 years is a short time, considering the issue has been studied for 30 years without resolution. Across the nation there are 104 commercial nuclear reactors at 65 sites in 31 states storing approximately 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel.

As early as 1957, the National Academy of Sciences warned that the "hazard of long term storage of radioactive waste is so great that no element of doubt should exist regarding its safety." (Robert Alvares, "Issues in Science and Technology," Winter 2012) The NAS's recommendation concluded that the best solution to the problem was deep geological disposal at a central location owned and monitored by the federal government. In other words, the safest solution is a design that results in dry, hardened, and air-cooled casks stored in an enclosed concrete underground bunker.

The long term expenses for maintaining security at multiple sites around the nation, as well as the risks, are cause for alarm. Surely a reasonable resolution could be brought to the floor. While Dominion's solution for dry cask storage is currently the best solution, there is no time to wait. It is estimated that many spent-fuel storage "pools" at U.S. reactors, which are already jammed, will hit maximum capacity by 2015. (Alvarez).

The Board of Selectmen strongly urges the Connecticut Delegation to use their influence and advocate for a national repository for spent nuclear fuel. Many nuclear facilities across the nation will be nearing the end of their life and will be decommissioned. Those power sources will need to be replaced. It is a concern that there will be no public resistance to development of new plants without a solution to a national secure respository for spent fuel.

The letter was signed by Paul Formica, first selectman, Mark Nickerson, deputy first selectman, Holly Cheeseman, selectwoman, Rose Ann Hardy, selectwoman, Kevin Seery, selectman, Robert Wilson, selectman. 

The letter was proposed and written by Selectwoman Rose Ann Hardy.  

John Sheehan October 19, 2012 at 01:53 AM
The federal government has an obligation to address the long term storage problem for high level nuclear waste. The President's Blue Ribbon Commission Report noted that recycling nuclear fuel was too expensive to introduce in the current fiscal climate. It has some suggestions about selecting a site for permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel that may or may not be effective. Unfortunately, it is not a priority at the federal level. Maybe more letters need to be written to other congress people and the President. The nation needs another "Manhattan Project" to solve this problem but there does not appear to be the will to make this occur.
Fake Mr. Fuji October 19, 2012 at 11:35 AM
So those 44 casks sittin out in the open air on the east bank of the CT River near the former CT Yankee plant, that's a bad idea?
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