Residents question safety at Millstone

Fern Fullmer of Niantic, second from left, listens to Dominion officials Monday, April 11, 2011, during a meeting with the public at Waterford Town Hall on safety issues at the Millstone Power Complex in Waterford.
Fern Fullmer of Niantic, second from left, listens to Dominion officials Monday, April 11, 2011, during a meeting with the public at Waterford Town Hall on safety issues at the Millstone Power Complex in Waterford.

Waterford - The owner of Millstone Power Station sought to reassure concerned residents Monday night that it is working to put potentially vulnerable spent fuel from one closed reactor into safe, dry storage on site.

A crowd of more than 150 people at Waterford Town Hall included an unidentified woman who said she wasn't convinced by Millstone owner Dominion executives' premise that the two operating Unit 2 and 3 reactors and the closed Unit 1 reactor could withstand a natural catastrophe like the earthquake and tsunami that wrecked still-troubled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors in Japan.

And later, a former contractor with Dominion criticized company management for not protecting him when he reported an employee was abusing prescription drugs. The contractor said he was the unjustly fired, he said.

Skip Jordan, site vice president, and Dan Weekley, Dominion vice president of governmental affairs, spent an hour discussing safety and a proposed tax on electric production at Millstone before fielding questions in the Town Hall auditorium. The meeting was still going on late Monday night.

Jordan and Weekley started by discussing the used fuel that sits in Unit 1, a boiling water reactor not unlike those at the Fukushima station. Millstone's two operating reactors, which are pressurized water reactors, are safer, Jordan said, because they have primary and secondary cooling systems to keep the plants cool.

But Nancy Burton, a Mystic resident speaking on her own behalf and not in her role as director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, wanted to know why Dominion isn't moving the spent fuel from Unit 1 immediately into an alternate type of storage known as dry cask storage. She lives outside the 10-mile radius that would be evacuated in event of a major calamity at Millstone, she said.

The crowd at times attacked her for trying to ask five questions instead of one, but John Markowicz, executive director of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region and a Waterford resident, echoed her concern.

"What's the chance of the spent fuel being moved" if the bill to tax Millstone goes through, he asked.

A proposed state tax on nuclear electricity production would charge 2 cents a kilowatt hour to Dominion, or about $335 million a year, Weekley said.

Jordan said the company is evaluating moving that fuel so that it is no longer housed above the reactor, where it is more vulnerable, but he and Weekley noted that if the tax is approved it will make it more difficult to invest in safety improvements like that.

State legislators including Sen. Andrea Stillman, Rep. Betsey Ritter and Rep. Ed Jutila said they and the entire delegation were opposed to the tax and fighting it.

The woman concerned for her family's safety in the event of a disaster by "Mother Nature," which is "damn good at creating catastrophes," wanted to know, "How do I protect my boys?"

Jordan said he has the same concern for his family and friends, many of whom live in nearby Groton, and his employees share those concerns also.

Steven Lavoie, the contractor and apparent whistleblower, said he was fired after reporting a co-worker's abuse of prescription medication.

"What is Dominion going to do about the liars in your company?" he asked. "There's corruption going on in upper management and all I was obligated to do was report it … I've had a target on my back. I want to know what you people are going to do to restructure management because people are crooked."

Jordan said the company's practice is to go through "multiple channels … (and) fully and thoroughly investigate that.

He told Lavoie his "commitment tonight is to go back and take another look at that."

One woman, Monica Rourke of Bristol, who said she was familiar with Millstone from when she worked in concrete repair in 2000, defended the nuclear complex as a well-run facility.

p.daddona@theday.com

Nancy Burton of Mystic, holds a sign she made as she asks Dan Weekley, left, vice president of governmental affairs for Dominion, as  Millstone Power Station officials meet with members of the public to discuss safety issues and possible ramifications on legislative tax proposals on Millstone at the Waterford Town Hall Monday, April 11, 2011.
Nancy Burton of Mystic, holds a sign she made as she asks Dan Weekley, left, vice president of governmental affairs for Dominion, as Millstone Power Station officials meet with members of the public to discuss safety issues and possible ramifications on legislative tax proposals on Millstone at the Waterford Town Hall Monday, April 11, 2011.

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