PO Box 1070, Frankfort, KY 40602 Phone 502.875.2428, Fax 502.875.2845
Senate Passes Bill That Would Open Door To Nuclear Power Plant Construction In Kentucky Posted: January 20, 2010
I’m writing to request that you vote in opposition to Senate Bill 26, which eliminates the current requirement that, prior to construction of a nuclear plant in Kentucky, the applicant have a strategy for permanent disposal of the waste, and replaces it only with a requirement for a storage plan.
Lifting the moratorium would allow for indefinite storage of spent nuclear fuel on-site in dry casks or pools, creating a potential threat from terrorism or mismanagement of the wastes. The National Academies of Science indicates that none of the existing reactors and storage facilities could withstand an airplane attack, and such a collision could cause fatalities as far as 500 miles away and 10 times the destruction caused by the Chernobyl incident.
The Beshear Administration has indicated that the lifting of the moratorium is necessary to “begin” the conversation about the role of nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. Lifting the moratorium doesn’t begin the discussion – it concludes the conversation by telling to the nuclear industry that it is ok to generate high-level radioactive wastes that need to be isolated and managed for over 25,000 years into the future, without a plan to dispose and safely manage those wastes.
There have been no new nuclear power plants constructed since 1974. Why? There are four reasons. First, private investors are wary of investments in new plants because of the runaway capital construction costs. Amory Lovins has suggested that the nuclear industry has and continues to suffer from an “incurable attack of market forces.” Forbes has called nuclear investment “the largest managerial disaster in business history.”
Investment in nuclear plants would cause staggering increases in electricity rates for Kentucky’s ratepayers, as has been the experience with nuclear energy in other states.
The second reason is that of safety and security. The third is a concern regarding proliferation and weaponization of plutonium. The last reason is the lack of a strategy for waste disposal.
Each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle generates wastes that must be managed – mining, milling, conversion to gas, gaseous diffusion in order to upgrade (enrich) the uranium so that it is capable of sustained nuclear reaction, fabrication of the pellets for fuel, reprocessing spent fuel, storage, transportation and disposal. There is currently no disposal strategy since the Obama Administration has concluded that the Yucca Mountain project will not be pursued, and the federal government is funding the interim storage and paying significant judgments for partially breaching its contract to begin disposal of the spent fuel from civilian nuclear power plants in 1998. Whether the decision not to move forward on the Yucca Mountain project is political or science-based, the fact is that there is no permanent nuclear waste disposal site, and no assurance that there will be one in the 10-year licensing period that would precede any new nuclear plant construction.
Alvin Weinberg, Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory 40 years ago, and a strong supporter of nuclear power, recognized that nuclear energy required a “Faustian bargain” – the current generation would reap the benefits and would trade the safety of future generations in order to do so. While some suggest that nuclear power is a step towards energy independence, in fact it merely substitutes one dependence for another, since 95% of the uranium used in the United States to create fuel rods is imported from abroad.
KRC believes that prior to development of any new nuclear power plants, a strategy for permanent disposal of the wastes should be in place. It is ironic that while Kentucky law requires each county to have in place a plan for disposal of household garbage, SB 26 would remove the requirement for nuclear power plants to have in place a disposal strategy for high-level radioactive waste, and would allow generation and indefinite on-site accumulation and storage of new radioactive wastes.