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Wastes from Oyster Creek Nuclear Station, and concerns about Holtec’s involvement

After the Shutdown: Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station Oyster Creek is done producing nuclear energy. Now comes the hard part: cleaning up five decades of radioactive waste. New Jersey Monthly, By Ian T. Shearn | | January 14, 2019

“………WASTE PILES UP

The closing of Oyster Creek is more than a local story. It occurs amid the glaring absence of a national strategy for the permanent storage of our growing stockpile of nuclear waste. That stockpile stands at 80,000 metric tons—its radiation lasting thousands of years—and is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades as more plants close.

In 1982, Congress directed the Department of Energy to develop a permanent geological repository for used nuclear fuel. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed a law designating Yucca Mountain in Nevada as that site.  In 2010, however, the DOE, after investing $12 billion in the project, shut it down with little explanation. Nevada’s Harry Reid, then the Senate majority leader, is widely credited with scuttling the plan in his home state. 

For now, U.S. nuclear power plants are resorting to on-site storage. Most of their spent fuel is stored in cooling pools and steel-and-concrete casks at 125 sites in 35 states. The NRC claims fuel can be stored safely in this manner for more than 100 years.   

But the U.S. Government Accountability Office informed Congress in April 2017 that “spent nuclear fuel can pose serious risks to humans and the environment….and is a source of billions of dollars of financial liabilities for the U.S. government. According to the National Research Council and others, if not handled and stored properly, this material can spread contamination and cause long-term health concerns in humans or even death.” 

Holtec, which made a name for itself in on-site storage, raised eyebrows last year when it announced its plans to jump into the potentially lucrative decommissioning business. Now, it is looking to take an even bigger leap: It has applied to build and operate a mammoth interim spent-fuel repository on 1,000 acres in New Mexico.  

Holtec initially wants to store 500 canisters of spent nuclear fuel containing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium from commercial nuclear reactors. If the NRC issues that initial license, Holtec would seek to expand the facility in 9 subsequent phases, each for an additional 500 canisters, to be completed over the course of 20 years. (If the license is approved, Oyster Creek’s spent fuel would be shipped to the site—creating yet another revenue opportunity for Holtec.) If that were to occur, the New Mexico site would swell to 163,700 metric tons—more than double the capacity assigned to Yucca Mountain. 

Opposing Holtec’s interim storage proposal last year became the singular mission of Kevin Kamps, a radioactive-waste specialist at Beyond Nuclear. His reasons are many, but mostly he is concerned that it would establish a “de facto permanent, surface storage dump” without approval by Congress.  

In addition, the interim site, he says, “would expose low-income people of color, communities already heavily polluted by fossil-fuel and nuclear industries, to yet another, major assault to their health, safety, security and environment. And it would launch tens of thousands or more high-risk mobile Chernobyls…down the roads, rails and/or waterways in shipping containers…of questionable structural integrity.”

For decades, the plant has provided as many as 700 jobs. That number has shrunk to 400 and will be reduced by another 100 during the decommissioning. Local government has become reliant on the $2.7 million in annual corporate taxes it collects from the plant. Lacey also receives $11 million annually in state Energy Tax Receipts. That covers about one-third of Lacey’s annual budget.  

Quinn says state officials have assured him the township will continue to benefit from the energy tax for a couple of years, but its share could be reduced drastically, maybe by half, after that. And when it comes time to demolish the buildings, the corporate property tax revenue will decline as well. It’s a troubling picture for Lacey’s financial future. 

With nuclear waste being stored on-site indefinitely, the prospects for residential or commercial projects are virtually non-existent, Quinn says. Township officials have begun discussions with natural gas companies to see if there is interest for a plant there, given that the hookup to the state’s power grid is basically ready to go. Quinn believes it is the best scenario for the township’s financial future. 

A bill coauthored last year by then U.S. representative Tom MacArthur would tap into a $40 billion federal nuclear storage fund to provide economic relief for towns affected by a nuclear-plant closure. The bill breezed through the House but died in the Senate. (In November, MacArthur, a Republican, lost his bid to keep his House seat to Democratic challenger Andy Kim.)

As it stands, there is no plan for the town to get anything other than 1.7 million pounds of radioactive nuclear waste. There it will sit—in steel and concrete canisters in a concrete structure next to a parking lot just off Route 9 and a few miles from the beach—until America comes up with plan. https://njmonthly.com/articles/politics-public-affairs/after-the-shutdown-oyster-creek-nuclear-generating-station-forked-river/ 

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January 15, 2019 - Posted by | USA, wastes

2 Comments »

  1. The most important issue, not addressed in this article, is these thin-wall stainless steel dry storage canisters are only 1/2″ thick. They are vulnerable to cracks, radioactive releases and hydrogen gas explosions.

    The NRC approves these in spite of the inability to inspect, repair, maintain or monitor thin-wall canisters in a manner to prevent raoactive releases. Unless these thin-wall pressure vessels are replaced with proven thick-wall metal casks, none of us are safe. At Fukushima the thick wall casks survived the 2011 tsunami and 9.0 earthquake. SanOnofreSafety.org

    Comment by Donna Gilmore | April 6, 2019 | Reply


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