During the annual meeting of the Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel Sept. 26, the power company’s Public and Government Affairs Director Eric Howes reported that Maine Yankee is encouraged by initiatives this year to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Fuel.
However, Howes cautioned the company expects the spent nuclear fuel and Greater than Class C waste to remain at the Wiscasset site for many years.
The U.S. Department of Energy is responsible for removing and storing spent fuel from the country’s nuclear power plants. The DOE, by law, was to begin removing the spent fuel by 1998 from closed nuclear plants.
Because of the government’s failure to do so, the three closed New England nuclear plants sued. Earlier this year the companies recovered $160 million in damages for the years 1998 to 2002. Maine Yankee received $81.7 million.
Howes told the CAP members, the three Yankee companies, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut, are currently seeking damages amounting to $240 million from the DOE for the years 2003 to 2008. That case was litigated in 2012 in the U.S. Court of Claims. Recently the companies filed a third round of damage claims for 2009 to 2012.
According to Howes, the companies are expecting a decision sometime this year for the 2003 to 2008 damages.
The Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 is intended to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear future. The bill, if approved, will enable the federal government to fulfill its commitment to manage nuclear waste. According to Howes, the bill is supported by the Department of Energy, Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and many state and federal elected officials from Maine and New Hampshire.
On June 27, the bill was introduced to the U.S. Senate. The Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee held a hearing on July 30. As of Monday, Sept. 30, no further action has been taken on the bill, Howes said. The bill requires a proposed new nuclear waste agency to establish a storage facility program beginning with a pilot program for storage of priority waste, which includes spent fuel removed from shutdown nuclear power plants, according to Howes.
The DOE’s goals are to have a pilot consolidated storage facility with priority for shutdown reactor fuel by 2021; a larger consolidated storage facility by 2025, and a repository in 2048. According to Howes, they are considering steps to define a consent based process for locating storage facilities and a repository in volunteer host communities with consent from local, state, and tribal entities.
Howes reported the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a writ Aug. 13 requiring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to continue reviewing the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain license application, a process that was terminated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2011.
Connell told the CAP members Maine Yankee is actively involved with the Electric Power Research Institute, the Nuclear Energy Institute and the NRC on issues of canister re-licensing. The current license on the canisters will expire in 2020. Connell indicated the plan is to have the renewal application submitted by 2018, two years in advance of the expiration date.
During this past summer a storage and maintenance building was constructed in the area of the former staff building parking lot. According to Connell, the new building is part of a larger plan to renovate the security operations building for additional office space and a conference room in 2014.
There was also construction this past summer of a vehicle barrier gate at the facility.
The Independent Fuel Storage Installation contains 60 air-tight canisters of spent fuel and four canisters of Greater than Class C waste. The canisters are housed inside concrete and steel casks and sit on concrete pads.
Hudson said, “Our job is not done yet, we need to keep beating the drum.”
The Community Advisory Panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage and Removal was established in 2005, the successor of the Community Advisory Panel on Decommissioning of Maine Yankee, which was established in 1997.
Marge Kilkelly served as chairman of the CAP until this year, when she became the Senior Policy Advisory for U.S. Senator Angus King, I-Maine.