Savannah River board votes to officially oppose accepting German spent nuclear fuel

NEW ELLENTON — The Savannah River Site Citizens Advisory Board is not in favor of accepting spent nuclear fuel from Germany.


In two separate votes Tuesday, the group voted down a draft recommendation to accept the spent fuel and endorsed a draft position statement that opposes receiving the spent fuel for treatment and storage in the U.S.

The spent fuel, which comes from two German reactors that have ceased operations, originated in the U.S.

It takes the form of about one million graphite spheres that contain uranium and thorium and are currently stored in 455 casks.

Gil Allensworth, board member and draft recommendation manager, said before the vote that he didn’t want any more nuclear waste at SRS, but was concerned about it falling into the wrong hands.

“If one of these balls gets in the water supply of Paris, that scares me,” Allensworth said. “I believe we are the best place in the world to keep this stuff.”

The draft recommendation failed to pass, getting only six votes in favor. Eleven board members voted against, and one abstained.

The position statement, which opposed receiving the spent fuel, was voted on next. It passed 13 to five.

The board also voted in favor of a position statement that opposes the storage of commercial spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste atSRS until 2048 or longer.

Tom Clements, the director of nuclear watchdog group SRS Watch, was pleased with the outcome of the votes.

“I thought it was quite strange that they allowed the two positions that had opposite statements to get this far,” Clements said. “I think they should have resolved this in the committee and presented one unified statement and not two.”

Clements said that a final Environmental Assessment from the Department of Energy is pending on the German spent nuclear fuel issue. He said it was supposed to be released in June but now there is no timetable.

“I personally think part of the reason for that is what’s happening in Germany, both the terrorism issue, and that there may be hesitancy to pay more to Savannah River National Laboratory for a program they don’t think is going to go forward.”

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The Savannah River Site (SRS) Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) is one of eight Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Boards funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and located in Aiken. These Boards provide advice and recommendations to DOE at its request on environmental remediation, waste management and related issues.

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