Published December 20. 2012 5:00PM Updated December 20. 2012 11:48PM
Waterford — Four residents voiced concerns and objections Thursday to plans by Millstone Power Station owner Dominion to expand its on-site storage capacity for spent nuclear fuel from 19 to 135 dry cask units.
The comments came during a public hearing convened by the Connecticut Siting Council, which is considering Dominion's application to expand its dry cask storage facilities at the 520-acre Millstone property.
"I'm very concerned you're trying to fix a long-term problem with a short-term solution by putting nuclear waste in people's backyards when it should be somewhere out west," said Kathy Archambault, who lives near the nuclear power station. "The federal government should be involved in this. This will be too close to too many people, and there isn't enough research" on long-term effects on nearby residents.
She added that she believes nuclear waste does not belong on a waterfront property that is vulnerable to hurricanes and storm surges. Millstone is located on Long Island Sound. Currently, 1,638 metric tons of spent fuel are stored in the 18 dry casks at the site. A 19th cask is empty. If approved, the expansion to 135 casks would provide storage for all the spent fuel for the two operating plants until both are decommissioned in 2045, as well as the already decommissioned Unit 1.
Like Archambault, Waterford Selectman Paul Suprin also called attention to the lack of a federal plan for nuclear waste storage. The town, he said, was told there would be a national repository for nuclear waste when it agreed to house the power plants, but there has been no plan in the works since the creation of a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada was scrapped in 2009.
States with nuclear plants, he said, should be pushing the federal government for a storage facility, "rather than having 105 nuclear collection sites," a reference to the number of nuclear plants nationwide.
After the 35-minute public hearing concluded, Suprin said he believes the state legislators that represent the region and the state's Congressional delegation all have failed the town by not pushing for a federal repository.
Two others who live near the plant, Erin Meeches and Edward Saller, raised questions about the environmental impact and safety of the dry cask units.
"I have children and grandchildren in my home, so having spent fuel in my backyard is concerning," said Meeches, adding that she also is concerned that property values will decline.
Saller asked whether Dominion has had any experience moving spent fuel out of one of the concrete-and-steel casks and to another, in case one of the units should be defective.
"If you can demonstrate that you've done that, I'd feel a lot better about this project," he said. "Occasionally, one of these things down the road is going to go bad."
Brian Wakeman, lead engineer for dry storage systems at Dominion, responded that his company had transferred spent fuel successfully from 10 defective dry casks into new ones at its plant in Surry, Va.
In written comments submitted before the hearing, Roger Smith, co-director of the environmental group Clean Water Action Connecticut, supported Millstone's plan. The dry cask units, he said, would be safer than keeping spent fuel in deep water pools where waste from Unit 1 is currently stored, as well as waste from the other two units for the first five years after it is removed from the reactor.
"While we can appreciate the concern local residents may have about being burdened with radioactive waste for decades to come," he wrote, "currently the safest practicable solution is hardened on-site storage." He added that Dominion should compensate the town for "this burden" by paying $350,000 per cask per year into a renewable energy development fund.
Written comments from the public will continue to be accepted by the council for the next 30 days.
During an evidentiary portion of the hearing in the afternoon, members of the council questioned Dominion officials about the environmental safety and sustainability of the dry casks. In addition, Nancy Burton, founder of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone, was granted intervenor status and questioned company officials for about two hours.
The evidentiary portion of the hearing will resume in the next two months. The council is expected to decide on the application by early spring.
For information on the application, visit www.ct.gov/csc/cwp/view.asp?a=962&Q=513322&PM=1.