2009 General Assembly: KRC Opposes Bill Excusing Nuclear Industry From Responsibility For Disposal of High-Level Rad Wastes

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February 11, 2009

Dear Senator:

I'm writing to ask that you vote "no" on Senate Bill 13. Senate Bill 13 would remove the provision in Kentucky law prohibiting construction of a nuclear electric generating plant until the federal government has implemented plans for construction and opening of a permanent waste disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste generated from nuclear power production. Instead, the amended law would require only that the power plant have a storage plan.

KRC believes that prior to the development of any new nuclear power plants, a strategy for permanent disposal of the wastes should be in place. The indefinite storage of high-level wastes at nuclear plants in pools and dry cask storage presents significant homeland security concerns and is not a suitable surrogate for secure disposal of wastes that pose human and ecological risks for centuries and beyond. It is ironic that while Kentucky law requires each county to have in place a plan for disposal of garbage, SB 13 would remove the requirement for utilities to have in place a disposal strategy for high-level radioactive waste, and allow generation and indefinite on-site accumulation and storage of new radioactive wastes.

And unlike existing spent fuels in storage at existing nuclear plants, the costs of storage of wastes from new plants would fall on ratepayers rather than the Department of Energy.

Despite heavy government subsidy, the nuclear industry will not see significant reemergence until the core issues it has failed to resolve in the last 50 years are satisfactorily resolved: those being runaway capital construction costs, safety, proliferation, waste disposal, and security. Nor will new investment in nuclear plants provide a meaningful contribution to achieving the short and near-term climate concerns, since the scientific community has suggested that greenhouse gas reductions will be needed to stabilize the climate and avoid more significant consequences of climate change, well in advance of the decade or more that typically is required for permitting, licensing and construction of such plants.

Governor Beshear's energy plan suggested that it was time to "begin" the discussion on what role nuclear power should play in Kentucky's energy future. SB 13, which was supported by the Beshear Administration, doesn't begin that conversation - instead it prejudges the outcome and sends a message that we will subsidize new nuclear construction by allowing the indefinite storage of wastes in the host communities.

The legacy of mismanaged nuclear wastes at Maxey Flats continues to be a management responsibility and fiscal obligation for which the citizens of the Commonwealth will continue indefinitely to foot the bill. It is appropriate that prior to engaging in the development of new nuclear power plants, a strategy for permanent disposal of the wastes be in place.

I would ask that you reject SB 13, and I appreciate your consideration of these concerns, and though we disagree on this matter, I appreciate Senator Leeper's thoughtful contribution to energy and environmental issues facing our Commonwealth.


Tom FitzGerald
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc.

By Kentucky Resources Council on 02/16/2009 5:32 PM
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