Groups oppose plan to store nuclear fuel near SRS

Three public interest groups in South Carolina are opposed to a new plan to store spent nuclear fuel near Savannah River Site.

 

SRS Watch, the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club have joined together to fight Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Group’s bid for a license to store spent fuel at the S.C. Advanced Technology Park on the eastern boundary ofSRS, according to a news release sent out Tuesday.

In a letter by SFR Group president Mike Stake to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in late July, the Aiken-based group said it “believes there is a market to store and eventually utilize spent nuclear fuel materials in a new generation of power reactors.”

The NRC responded earlier this month and asked to be kept “apprised of specific developments related to the timing of your license application, and the number of casks of the proposed facility.” It also suggested the group hold pre-application meetings with NRC staff.

The proposed site is where the former Barnwell reprocessing plant is located. The facility was never operated.

The public interest and conservation groups contend that moving spent fuel, a form of highly radioactive waste, from the four nuclear plant sites in South Carolina is unnecessary and would do nothing to alleviate the nation’s long-term spent fuel disposal problem. It also would create exposure risks.

“Though the spent fuel storage proposal is in its formative stages we believe that it is totally unnecessary and potentially poses a host of environmental and health issues that cause us to vigorously oppose it,” Chris Hall, chair of the executive committee of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “We call on Governor Haley and elected officials to ask tough questions about the proposal and inform the public, which grows ever skeptical about nuclear waste disposal in the state, about information gathered about it.”

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to consolidate spent fuel and has started with fuel stored at closed reactor sites.

According to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, spent fuel must be disposed of in a geologic repository. Currently, no such facility exists. In South Carolina, spent fuel is stored in both pools and on pads near the reactors in “dry casks” at all reactor sites.

“There is no justification whatsoever to consolidate spent fuel at the Barnwell site as it would only increase risks and cost and do nothing to solve the spent fuel crisis that has developed,” said Suzanne Rhodes of the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

In July, the Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board reaffirmed its position against storing commercial spent fuel from Germany at SRS. In two separate votes, the group voted down a draft recommendation to accept the spent fuel and it also voted to endorse a draft position statement that opposes receiving the spent fuel for treatment and storage in the U.S.

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