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, which owns Millstone, is asking the Connecticut Siting Council's permission to expand its dry cask storage, which would hold nearly 60 years-worth of nuclear waste. Right now, Millstone has 19 dry cask storage units on site, 18 of which hold nuclear waste. Dominion is looking to build a cement pad that could hold an additional 116 dry cask storage units.
The towns of East Lyme and Waterford had requested that Dominion hold a public forum on the issue to let people know what the company is planning to do. Many audience members voiced concerns or asked questions about the project at last night's hearing.
“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.”
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 Siting Council gave approval for Millstone to do the “underground” work to install such a pad in 2004. Now the company is applying for permission to put the top layer of cement on to finish the job. Dominion plans to build the dry cask storage units as needed.
This isn't something that Dominion ever thought it would need to do, however. 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 on site. But with the government the way it is, it is unlikely there will 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 either. 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.
The public brought up a variety of concerns, such as the radioactivity of the dry cask storage containers. 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 built on-site, instead of having them 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 possible noise during construction, although Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said the noise will be relatively minor, as it mostly involves 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.
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.
After the meeting, Wagner said he had no issue with Millstone’s plans. He did say, however, that the real issue would be having the waste removed should Millstone close and whether the site would still be usable.
Wagner said that unless a national repository is built, the nuclear waste will have to stay there forever and the property will not be marketable for any other purpose but a nuclear power plant.