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U.S. government struggles with the ever-accumulating nuclear waste problem

Government launches push that may remove Maine Yankee’s nuclear waste from Wiscasset

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to know whether communities would be willing to store nuclear waste temporarily while the government finds a permanent solution.

BY KATHLEEN O’BRIEN, TIMES RECORD, 2 Dec 21,    The federal government has taken the first step in an effort to move the nation’s spent nuclear fuel, like the 542 metric tons of nuclear waste at the long-decommissioned Maine Yankee facility in Wiscasset, but a Maine Yankee official said that waste likely isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

On Nov. 30, the U.S. Department of Energy released a request for information on a consent-based effort to move the nation’s spent nuclear fuel to other communities willing to hold onto it until the government finds a permanent storage solution for the waste. The DOE is collecting feedback from stakeholders on the effort until March 4, 2022, at 5 p.m

This action is considered long overdue because the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the federal government to remove the radioactive waste from sites including Maine Yankee by 1998, but that commitment was never fulfilled.

Maine Yankee operated from 1972 to 1996 when the company’s board voted to cease operations rather than invest in fixing expensive safety-related problems to keep the plant running. The plant was fully decommissioned in 2005. Since then, the nuclear waste has sat there, waiting for the government to remove it.

Maine Yankee’s spent nuclear fuel is housed in 64 dry storage casks, which stand on 16 3-foot-thick concrete pads. Each concrete cask is comprised of a 2.5-inch-thick steel liner surrounded by 28 inches of reinforced concrete. The site takes up 820-acres on Wiscasset’s Bailey Point.

Maine Yankee Public and Government Affairs Director Eric Howes said moving the nuclear waste elsewhere will be a years-long process, but this movement is, “a positive development, but much more needs to be done to resolve the spent nuclear fuel issue.”

…….. “It’s going to be difficult to get a community willing to be an interim storage facility because what does interim mean?” Howes said. “What’s meant by interim when, at this point, there is no plan for a permanent geologic repository?”………..

Kathryn Huff, principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy, said the department recognizes it needs to take responsibility for the 86,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel in sites across the country.

……….  Huff said it needs to be removed because “the communities that have that spent nuclear fuel never agreed to host the material long-term.”

“We cannot continue to defer the problem for future generations to figure out,” Huff said during a public information session Tuesday. “Inaction on this issue has already cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $9 million on settlements and judgements.”…………

Howes says it costs Maine Yankee roughly $10 million annually to store the nuclear waste safely while waiting for the government to remove it. He said the company pays to store it with funds won in lawsuits against the DOE.

Maine Yankee and its two sister sites, Connecticut Yankee and Yankee Rowe in Mass., have collectively won about $575.5 million in lawsuits and is now in its fifth round of litigation with the department. The money the government concedes in those lawsuits, however, comes from The Judgement Fund, which is funded by U.S. taxpayers…………

December 13, 2021 - Posted by | USA, wastes

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