Millstone seeks big boost in nuclear waste storage
WATERFORD, Conn.—The corporate owner of Millstone Power Station plans to significantly expand its nuclear waste storage capacity at the southeast Connecticut site of its three nuclear power plants.
The Day of New London reports ( http://bit.ly/KTqjhn) that spokesman Ken Holt said the company is seeking to increase the number of dry cask storage units from 19 to 135 at the Waterford site. That would be enough to hold all the spent nuclear fuel generated by the power plants through the decommissioning of Unit 3 in 2045.
The company has permission from the Connecticut Siting Council to build 30 more concrete-and-steel chambers. Holt says the company believes it would be easier to build all the dry cask units it will need for all three plants at once rather than incrementally.
The siting council would have to approve Dominion's request. Melanie Bachman, staff attorney for the siting council, said a decision would be made 30 to 60 days after a hearing.
Watchdog groups such as the Union of Concerned Scientists Dry and the industry prefer dry cask for long-term storage because it is better able to withstand natural disasters, particularly after the nuclear plant disaster in Japan immediately following the March 2011 tsunami.
"There is a measurable risk, but it's an acceptably low level," said David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission authorizes dry casks as safe for the storage of nuclear fuel for 120 years. The nation's nuclear sites began installing dry casks in 1987 and "there have been no significant problems with them at any of the sites," said Tom Kauffman, a spokesman at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group.
Nuclear fuel, after use in a reactor for about five years, no longer produces energy efficiently and must be replaced. It remains hot and highly radioactive and must sit for at least five years in pools of water before it can be moved into dry casks that use passive systems of air circulation for cooling.
The radioactivity level of the spent fuel diminishes rapidly in the first five years. But all the material in the fuel rods does not reach safe levels of radioactivity for tens of thousands of years.
Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said he understands Dominion's need for more capacity for nuclear waste, but he does not want the site to become a nuclear waste dump long-term. Town officials initially agreed four decades ago to host the nuclear power plants believing that the federal government would establish a facility to safely store waste from the nation's 104 nuclear plants long-term, he said.
"Millstone has to have someplace to offload the fuel," he said. "But my concern is that the federal government has not provided for the spent fuel and there was a commitment from the federal government that there would be a repository."
Information from: The Day, http://www.theday.com