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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Finns visit Waterford to talk nuclear waste storage

    Mikko Hautala, Finlands’ ambassador to the United States, left, speaks Wednesday, March 27, 2024, with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, during the Stakeholder Roundtable on Spent Nuclear Fuel at Waterford Town Hall. Courtney hosted the roundtable. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Paul Murray, deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the U.S. Department of Energy, right, speaks Wednesday, March 27, 2024, with U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, center, and Mikko Hautala, Finland’s ambassador to the United States, listening during the Stakeholder Roundtable on Spent Nuclear Fuel at Waterford Town Hall. Courtney hosted the roundtable. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mikko Hautala, second from left, Finland’s ambassador to the United States, speaks Wednesday, March 27, 2024, with Jeffrey Semancik, left, of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, center, Paul Murray, second from right, deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the U.S. Department of Energy, and professor Jim Sherrard, nuclear program chair at Three Rivers Community College, during the Stakeholder Roundtable on Spent Nuclear Fuel at Waterford Town Hall. Courtney hosted the roundtable. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Waterford ― Hours after touring Millstone Power Station, Finnish diplomats met Wednesday with state, local and federal officials to discuss how their country became the first in the world to successfully host a permanent nuclear waste repository.

    The United States hopes to emulate Finland’s process, which involves gathering feedback from communities where short-term storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel would be located. Based on a 2023 report, the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to have a consent-based nuclear waste storage facility in place and waste removed from current facilities between 2033 and 2038.

    According to the office of U.S. Rep. Courtney, D-2nd District, the department is in phase 1.b. of that plan, which involves reaching to communities.

    According to Paul Murray, deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition at the Department of Energy, the goal of the current consent-based process is “to get at least two temporary facilities.”

    Wednesday’s meeting was the second the town has hosted since December 2021, when the Department of Energy issued a request for information, in addition to a draft of a similar consent-based siting process report done in 2017. The plan incorporates community input the department solicited from Native American tribes, states, local governments and members of the public since 2015, Courtney’s office said.

    The plan was created with a solution in mind for finding a home for spent nuclear material from 54 operating nuclear plants via repositories in host communities willing to accept them.

    Beginning in the 1980s, the United States planned to build what would have been the country’s only long-term nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. But the project, plagued by opposition, never materialized. Since 2010, when activities there were ordered to cease, there’s been nowhere for nuclear power plants to send their nuclear waste.

    The Department of Energy’s consent based-model, like Finland’s, would rely on input from communities.

    A short-term storage facility would allow for the storage of nuclear materials from both of Connecticut’s power plants, Millstone and Connecticut Yankee in East Haddam. Together, they store 2,441 metric tons of nuclear waste, a number Courtney’s office provided Wednesday.

    Millstone stores the waste in steel-lined concrete pools or inside cannisters in concrete “garages” on-site, while at Connecticut Yankee, waste is stored in 43 dry storage casks on a concrete pad.

    “While there are certainly space considerations, the main goal of long-term disposal is to not have spent fuel stored in bulk at the station,” Dominion Energy State Policy Advisor Susan Adams said. “A central repository in the country is a better way to manage and monitor the used fuel storage cannisters.”

    Meanwhile, Connecticut Yankee, which shut down in 1996, would not have to continue operations at the Haddam Neck plant, where it still stores waste, according to Robert Capstick Jr., Connecticut Yankee Power Co. director of government and public affairs.

    Courtney, a member of Congress’s bipartisan Spent Nuclear Fuel Solutions caucus, said Wednesday he believes Finland “seems to have found the Da Vinci code to move forward with a permanent waste disposal site.”

    First Selectman Robert Brule said in a release after the meeeting that, “few communities across America are more significantly affected by this as-of-yet unresolved issue than Waterford, and I continue to support the federal government’s concept of consent-based siting of spent waste storage.”

    Finland is on the verge on opening what would be the world’s first long-term nuclear waste repository. According to the BBC, that nuclear waste storage facility is called “Onkalo,” which in Finnish means cave or hollow. Once completed, it will house nuclear waste 1,500 feet under Olkiluoto island, deep in the bedrock.

    Mikko Hautala, Finnish ambassador to the United States, said Finland has a cold climate that requires a lot of heating and energy. The country has five nuclear power plants. Nuclear power accounts for 30% to 35% of Finland’s energy.

    “People do realize that in order to combat effectively, the climate change, you need this, this is absolutely something you have to have,” he said. “Otherwise, all the other solutions simply are not satisfactory.”

    d.drainville@theday.com

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