|Concerns voiced on nuclear waste storage|
|Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer|
|Tuesday, 03 December 2013 11:14|
PERRYSBURG - Wearing buttons, stickers and flashing lights, most speakers at a public meeting Monday about storage of spent nuclear fuel instead focused their criticism on the industry itself.
The meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons, one of 12 across the country hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was meant to address the agency's determination that the hazardous remains at nuclear plants should stay there for now.
NRC's assertions that nuclear waste can be safely stored with no imminent environmental risk have been challenged in courts since the 1970s. The most recent update allowed waste to be stored in insulated casks on-site for up to 60 years past the licensed life of a nuclear reactor. That determination, successfully challenged in 2010, resulted in court orders to provide further support in the NRC's environmental analysis.
Millions have been spent researching the potential for a national repository in which waste could be stored in a central underground mine, but those plans have stalled.
The draft generic environmental impact statement under review during the meeting circuit provides for three time frames for storage at reactor sites: 60 years after a reactor's licensed life, by which time the NRC says a national repository should be available; long-term storage of 160 years past the licensed life; as well as an indefinite time frame, "although the NRC considers it highly unlikely."
Another meeting will be conducted in Minnesota this week, with a final webcast meeting set for Dec. 9. Public comment will be accepted until Dec. 20.
After an hour-long open house with NRC information available as well as booths set up by opponents of the nuclear industry, about 30 registered public speakers were followed by those who showed up to give their two cents.
Representatives of the Sierra Club and other groups spoke out against what they categorized as a dangerous industry. Others contended that nuclear power can be generated safely, and the country's electricity needs continue to go nowhere but up.
The first speaker, Jim Sass, president of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, said that group enjoys a good relationship with the NRC and is satisfied with its efforts to keep things safe at FirstEnergy's Davis-Besse reactor in Oak Harbor. Without a federal repository, he said on-site storage was the best option.
Afterward, rhetoric quickly became the norm, and demands to cease the production of nuclear power were frequently met with shouts and applause.
"It's the only sane alternative, and it's not being considered," said Terry Lodge, a Toledo attorney.
Michael Keegan of Monroe, Mich., the site of the region's other reactor, Fermi II, also said nuclear power should be halted, calling on the NRC to stop issuing and renewing reactor licenses. He saved his harshest words for the agency itself, which he said was negligent in performing in two years a review process that should have taken seven years.
"This is a confidence game. This is a fraud perpetrated on the taxpayers and the rate-payers, a sham."
Several speakers, including Jessie Collins of Detroit, focused on the worst possible scenario, a nuclear disaster that at either Davis-Besse or Fermi II would dwarf the problems caused by meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.
"Each reactor continues to endanger an entire bio-region. In our modern world, nuclear-produced electricity is totally unnecessary," Collins said.
"I urge the officials here to uphold the law; not to renew any existing licenses and not to license any new reactors; and shut down all operating reactors for the sake of humanity."
Although outnumbered, some took to the podium to express confidence in nuclear power and the ability for waste to be properly managed.
Paul Podot, who noted he lives in Temperance, Mich., reasonably close to both reactors, said he was comfortable with the storage options.
Gary Border of Bowling Green had mixed feelings about the information on both sides, but he called on others to be realistic about nuclear power and U.S. energy demands, neither of which are going anywhere. And global warming, he said, presents a much more imminent threat.
"We've got a society here that has an appetite for electricity," Border said.
"Right now, I don't see any choice."
Anyone interested in making comments may submit them through Dec. 20:
• By mail to Secretary, U.S. NRC, Washington, D.C. 20555-0001, Attn: Rulemakings and Adjudications Staff
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