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Tuesday, 
September 02, 2003

 



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Other | Article published Tuesday, September 2, 2003
Nuclear waste may go through area sooner

By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER


Spent nuclear fuel from the Northeast could be moving through northern Ohio sooner than expected, possibly by 2006.

Thatís if a consortium representing FirstEnergy Corp. and seven other utilities gets Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to move the highly radioactive waste to a Native American reservation in Utah.

The consortium, Private Fuel Storage LLC, hopes to convince the NRCís safety and atomic licensing board this fall that a contractor has designed adequate casks for use at a reservation owned by the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians.

The industry group will try to show the odds of those casks being struck by military aircraft and subsequently breaking apart are less than one in a million. The NRC considers those odds inconsequential, consortium spokesman Sue Martin said.

The reservation is southwest of Salt Lake City, in Tooele County near Skull Valley, Utah. The military uses Skull Valley as a driveway to its test and training area on the other side of a mountain range. "Itís considered military airspace. While they donít do tests and maneuvers in Skull Valley, it is a driveway," Ms. Martin said.

The licensing board expressed some concerns with Private Fuel Storageís computation after a hearing last summer. The upcoming hearing will give the consortium another chance to justify its numbers, Ms. Martin said.

If the board rules in favor, the request would go to the full NRC to review for license consideration. The consortium has an agreement with the tribe for a 20-year lease with an option for a 20-year extension. It could have the facility developed in 18 to 24 months, she said.

"Early 2006 is now the best-case scenario," Ms. Martin said. Terms of the deal with the Utah tribe, including payments it would receive, have been kept confidential, she said.

Davis-Besse is one of several nuclear plants that were so cramped for space in the 1990s that they moved some of the spent fuel from their indoor storage pool into outdoor storage vaults. Before FirstEnergy Corp.ís acquisition of Toledo Edison Co., the plantís former owner spent more than $5 million to develop the outdoor vaults at Davis-Besse.

The nationwide space crunch stems from the federal governmentís failure to live up to its obligation to begin taking the waste in January, 1998. The U.S. Department of Energy isnít expected to have its burial site, Nevadaís Yucca Mountain, developed until 2010, and quite possibly later, given numerous setbacks over the years.

The consortium was formed because of concerns that the waste-disposal debate could drag on, causing many more plants - including Detroit Edison Co.ís Fermi II nuclear plant - to store waste outdoors.

FirstEnergy gave the consortium an undisclosed amount of seed money to help get the effort started with the Utah tribe in 1997 but has had little involvement since, company spokesman Richard Wilkins said.

Mr. Wilkins said thatís because FirstEnergy, shortly after taking over Davis-Besse, reracked the plantís spent fuel pool in a manner to free up enough space to store waste generated there through the end of the plantís operating license, which expires in 2017. The utility will have to look at other options if it succeeds in getting a 20-year license extension from the NRC, Mr. Wilkins said.

Although the consortium is representing eight utilities, it is essentially making a case for the whole nuclear industry. Waste stored at the Utah site would not be limited to the eight consortium members, Ms. Martin said.

"The whole concept here is that the utilities canít absolutely count on when Yucca Mountain will take their spent fuel," she said.

The Utah reservation is at least the second Native American reservation where a consortium of utilities has tried to store spent fuel. Several years ago, a different consortium was negotiating with the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico, but the proposed deal fell through. Davis-Besse was involved in those negotiations as well.

The latest process hit another potential snag recently when the NRCís Office of Inspector General decided to investigate the agencyís oversight performance. The inspector generalís office is reviewing quality assurance of the cask fabrication in light of complaints brought to its attention by a whistleblower, spokesman George Mulley said.



More articles on this subject Ľ
Task force hunts for weapons to quash area's ash-tree enemy 09/02/2003
State funds available to protect open spaces 09/02/2003
Tracking a mysterious killer 09/01/2003
Toxic form of green algae linked to urban sprawl visit Lake Erie again 08/21/2003
Breathe easy, Toledo: Your air is the stateís healthiest 08/20/2003

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