Critics: Don’t let dollars blur debate on nuclear waste

rburris@thestate.comMarch 15, 2013 

Experts and activists who doubt chemical reprocessing is the solution to the nation’s creeping commercial nuclear spent-fuel problem Thursday cautioned state and federal officials not to allow jobs and profits to cloud that issue.

The nuclear critics made their case to the Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council, a day after the SRS Community Reuse Organization released a report asserting the region has many of the assets necessary to a national solution to the nation’s ever-rising spent fuel inventory.

Centered in Aiken, the group said the study it commissioned would use SRS and its 60-year-old H-Canyon chemical separation facilities to help address closure of the spent-fuel cycle, which suffered a national setback when the U.S. government scrapped plans three years ago to open a permanent repository for spent fuel and high-level waste at the Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada.

The SRS group told the advisory council they were not interested in accumulating nuclear waste at SRS or elsewhere in the region simply to store it. But bringing much of the nation’s 70,000 metric tons of nuclear waste to South Carolina and reprocessing it could mean up to 1,700 jobs here and generate $12 million in taxes, the group-sponsored study said.

The nuclear critics took issue with the group, which represents five counties — Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell in the Palmetto State and Richmond and Columbia counties in Georgia.

“We need to get this issue right,” said Arjan Makhijani, one of the nuclear critics speaking to the council, and president of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research.

Makhijani said the Aiken group failed to present to the council a neutral, full description of the downsides of the reprocessing debate and its issues.

Rick McLeod, SRS Community Reuse Organization executive director, presented the group’s case to the council and sought to calm fears. “This is not a decision document. It’s a study document only,” McLeod said.

Tom Clements, of national conservation group Friends of the Earth, said the SRSCRO was not clear to the advisory council that they initially want spent nuclear fuel from South Carolina and Georgia to be concentrated here in the state – and then to have 20,000 metric tons of nuclear waste from the Southeast and 20,000 metric tons of nuclear waste from the Northeast to come here to be reprocessed.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service