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Former nuclear town degenerates into a stranded nuclear waste dump

strandedWATCHDOGS: Zion’s nuclear fallout; still reeling from ’98 closing, Chicago Sun Times,  John Carpenter, 1/07/2017, Workers are methodically dismantling the once-mighty Zion nuclear power plant. Just up the road in the far north suburb, a different kind of dismantling is taking place.

The small Lake County city of Zion — founded at the start of the last century as the new “City of God” and once a bustling little blue-collar bedroom community — is staggering. Crushed by the loss of half its property-tax base when the power plant was closed in 1998, it faces the foreseeable future as a nuclear waste dump.

It wasn’t supposed be this way.

 “The understanding was that Zion would have a nuclear power plant on the lakefront and that it would be an eyesore but that there could be some economic development down the line,” Zion Mayor Al Hill says. “The understanding also was that, when they closed it, it would be gone. That’s not what happened.”

What happened is that no one can agree on where to put about 1,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel rods. So they will stay, sealed inside stainless steel canisters, encased in concrete and stacked in neat rows of 20-feet-tall cylinders on a concrete pad, all huddled together along some of Illinois’ most beautiful lakefront shoreline.

“We are,” Hill says, “a nuclear waste dump.”

It’s easy to ignore the plight of one small town. But nuclear plants in downstate Clinton and the Quad Cities, threatened with closing earlier this year, narrowly escaped the same fate. There are 11 nuclear reactors in six locations across Illinois and 99 operating across the nation. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, there are 16 nuclear reactor sites nationwide that have been shut down and are being decommissioned — being taken apart, a lengthy process because nearly everything being dismantled is somewhat radioactive and requires special care in handling.

According to the most optimistic estimates, the radioactive waste now being stored in Zion will be there until at least the next decade, perhaps much longer. That’s left the city to try to lure new economic development with a nuclear-waste storage facility occupying its most valuable waterfront land.

If you think this is no big deal, talk to Sharon and Don Bourdeau, who, after running the Zion Antique Mall and Toy Mart for more than 20 years, just closed the store at the end of last month. Until then, it was an easy place to visit, as parking is never a problem these days in the heart of downtown Zion, which has nearly as many empty storefronts as it does working businesses……….

Redmond points out that all U.S. taxpayers, not just electricity rate-payers, are paying for nuclear-waste disposal thanks to the industry’s successful lawsuit against the Energy Department. As of last year, more than $5 billion has been paid out of that judgment fund, he says, with some estimates suggesting that number could climb to almost $30 billion before a storage solution is found.

A spokesman for Commonwealth Edison parent Exelon won’t comment, saying the matter of future waste storage in Zion is in the hands of the federal government. Exelon technically doesn’t own or control the waste, which is now in the hands of Zion Solutions, the company hired to dismantle the plant. Once the dismantling is complete, though, the facility — and the nuclear waste — will return to the control of Exelon until the federal government comes up with a solution……..

January 9, 2017 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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