Advisory board mulls stance against SRS spent fuel storage

 

Savannah River Site’s Citi­zens Advisory Board is considering a draft recommendation opposing any future use of the site for storing spent nuclear fuel.

“The CAB would like to go on record saying that it is opposed to the use of SRS or any portion of the site for the storage of commercial nuclear wastes,” said the draft, shared Monday by the board’s waste management committee.

The draft is only at the discussion stage. A full vote on the position would be scheduled this summer.

Though there is no formal plan to bring spent commercial reactor fuel to the site, the demise of the government’s Yucca Mountain project in Nevada left the nation without options for the 75,000 tons of radioactive spent fuel accumulating at commercial nuclear plants.

A blue-ribbon committee formed to explore alternatives suggested “consolidated, interim storage” of the dangerous material until a better solution can be found.

The committee did not make site recommendations, but officials say it would be difficult to explore those options without considering SRS, which has nuclear waste experience and infrastructure, and a location in the South, which has many commercial nuclear plants.

In March, consultants hired by the SRS Community Reuse Organization – an economic development consortium – unveiled a $200,000 study that concluded the site’s H Canyon processing facilities and long history of nuclear involvement make it a suitable site for such storage.

“Consolidated storage would start with the spent nuclear fuel currently in South Caro­lina and Georgia and, if successful, could expand to include the remainder of the 20,000 metric tons of spent fuel in the southeastern U.S.,” the report said Sub­sequent phases could accommodate more spent fuel from Virginia and the Northeast.

Though the project would bring money and jobs to the area, it would require broad community support to be successful, the study said, noting that storage could also lead to a reprocessing complex at SRS.

The draft recommendation notes that the advisory board is not opposed to commercial nuclear power generation, but fears that a new effort to create a permanent repository “is generations away” and could leave material stranded indefinitely in South Carolina.

Representatives from Friends of the Earth, the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club and other groups have said they will oppose any plan to import spent fuel into the state.

“It is clear that there is a growing momentum in South Caro­lina against giving consent to a consolidated storage facility for highly radioactive spent fuel at SRS or any other site,” said Tom Cle­ments, the Southeastern nuclear cam­paign coordinator with Friends of the Earth.

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