The Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage and Removal met Monday afternoon for their annual meeting at the Taste of Maine Restaurant in Woolwich.
Maine Yankee Nuclear Power Plant generated electricity from 1972 until it shut down in 1997. The plant completed the decommissioning process in 2005.
Delivering his annual report, Maine Yankee Director of Public and Government Affairs Eric Howes told the panel the impasse in Congress is preventing reform of the nuclear waste management program.
Although Waste Control Specialists in Texas, and Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance in New Mexico have announced plans to apply for a NRC license to construct a storage site with hopes of starting operations in 2020, there will be several obstacles to overcome for the two applicants. According to Howes, Congress remains divided on the storage of nuclear fuel.
The Senate Energy Committee hearing on a bill to implement the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations introduced in March, and scheduled for a hearing in August was canceled and has not been rescheduled.
In the House of Representatives the energy committee is expected to introduce a bill that seeks to address obstacles with the Yucca Mountain storage facility, Howes said.
Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, was designated by Congress as the nation’s spent fuel storage facility. However, it was declared not a workable option by President Obama’s administration in 2009. That decision was followed by the appointment of the Blue Ribbon Commission to review the policies for the management of nuclear fuel, and to make recommendations for its storage.
Among the recommendations the panel made was consolidating waste in an interim storage facility.
Howes said he doesn’t expect any meaningful progress on the storage of nuclear fuel or the implementation of the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations this year.
The panel members agreed with Howes that nothing will be done this year, and perhaps not until 2017, after the election.
“An election year is not a year for decision making,” Howes said.
Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation
Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation Manager J. Stanley Brown told the panel a drone circled around the storage facility Sept. 6. The drone did not come directly over the facility but hovered over the area for a few minutes. Brown said that he notified the necessary agencies of the incident.
Senate Chris Johnson, D-Somerville, said this is something that could become more frequent. Panel member Ralph Keyes said the Wiscasset High School now has a drone building class, and he would inform them the storage facility would be off limits to flyovers.
Brown reported Maine Yankee will be installing an approximately 3,500 foot chain link fence around Maine Yankee Old Ferry Road property to deter trespassing, which has been an issue since the construction of the facility 10 years ago.
The Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation is an 11 acre open-air facility that contains 60 air-tight sealed steel containers of spent fuel and four containers of Greater than class C waste.
Brown discussed the canister re-licensing and extended storage of nuclear fuel which will be due in 2020. Maine Yankee has been working on processes for inspecting the concrete casks and pads to be implemented during the renewal process.
Westport Island First Selectman George Richardson asked the board why this country was not looking into the reprocessing of nuclear waste as is being done in other countries.
Panel chairman Don Hudson pointed out reprocessing of nuclear waste will not eliminate the need for a nuclear depository. Panel member Dan Thompson said Richardson made a good point and the nation should research the benefits of reprocessing.
After a brief discussion the panel decided to write a one-page letter to Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, with a copy of the letter to several other federal officials.
The letter will ask the Congressional delegation for their continued support, and advocate a pilot program for the Consolidate Interim Storage facilities to begin the process of removing the spent fuel from decommissioned nuclear power plants.
The panel will also seek support from the other decommissioned power plants in New England.
The panel sent a letter last year asking for the speedier removal of the spent fuel from the Maine Yankee site. According to Hudson, Senator Collins was the only one to respond to the 2014 letter.
Panel member Lewis Curtis, who traditionally has made the motion to adjourn the panel meetings, tendered his resignation Monday evening, and did not make the motion to adjourn.
Curtis was appointed to the Maine Yankee Community Advisory panel in 1997 and continued to serve on the Community Advisory Panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage and Removal following the decommissioning in 2005.
In Curtis’ letter of resignation he said, “I have enjoyed being able to participate and was humbled that I was selected. I have deep respect for the members and wish you every success in the coming years.”