U.S. panel to see SRS, Plant Vogtle

A national panel appointed to study nuclear waste disposal options will visit Savannah River Site and Plant Vogtle next year, according to a co-chairman.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future was created by President Obama in the wake of a controversial decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada, which was being designed as a permanent disposal site for much of the nation's nuclear waste.

The site, 90 miles from Las Vegas, was to accommodate 70,000 tons of waste from the nation's 104 commercial reactors, which are generating about 2,000 additional tons of spent fuel each year. It was also to be the disposal site for radioactive material from 121 temporary sites, including SRS.

Many local groups, including the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, protested the cancellation of Yucca Mountain, saying it would make it more difficult to move radioactive waste out of South Carolina.

The group also asked that the panel reconsider Yucca Mountain, noting that more than $10 billion has already been spent on the project.

The 15-member Blue Ribbon panel's mission, as stated by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, is to explore alternatives that would offer safe, effective ways to handle nuclear waste.

The group's co-chairman, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, announced the visit to the Augusta area this week. "In January of next year, we will arrange visits to southeastern New Mexico to visit the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and to Georgia and South Carolina to learn more about the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant and the Savannah River Site," he said.

"We look forward to these visits," Scowcroft said.

The panel is scheduled to make its first series of recommendations in fall of 2011.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Blue Ribbon commission members

LEE HAMILTON, CO-CHAIRMAN, represented Indiana's 9th Congressional District from January 1965-January 1999. In Congress, Hamilton served as the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and chaired the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He is president and the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University.

BRENT SCOWCROFT, CO-CHAIRMAN, served as the national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush. Served in the military for 29 years, and concluded at the rank of lieutenant general following service as the deputy national security adviser.

MARK AYERS, president, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO

VICKY BAILEY, former commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; former Department of Energy assistant secretary for policy and international affairs

ALBERT CARNESALE, chancellor emeritus and professor, UCLA

PETE V. DOMENICI, senior fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; former U.S. senator from New Mexico

SUSAN EISENHOWER, president, Eisenhower Group Inc.

CHUCK HAGEL, former U.S. senator from Nebraska

JONATHAN LASH, president, World Resources Institute

ALLISON MACFARLANE, associate professor of environmental science and policy, George Mason University

RICHARD A. MESERVE, president, Carnegie Institution for Science; former chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

ERNIE MONIZ, professor of physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

PER PETERSON, professor and chairman, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California-Berkeley

JOHN ROWE, chairman and chief executive officer, Exelon Corp.

PHIL SHARP, president, Resources for the Future