KRC Opposes Second Bill To Lift Nuclear Plant Moratorium
Re: House Bill 103
Dear Representative Watkins:
I'm writing to share with you my concerns regarding House Bill 103, which proposes to lift the current moratorium against construction of new nuclear power plants absent an approved waste management strategy. As you know, KRC has opposed lifting the moratorium and replacing is with an obligation to merely have a storage plan, for these reasons:
Indefinite storage of spent fuels at nuclear power plants is a significant homeland security risk. A National Academy of Sciences 2005 Report concluded that few, if any, current nuclear reactors could withstand a terrorist airplane attack, and such a collision could cause fatalities as far away as 500 miles.
There is currently no long-term national nuclear waste disposal facility or strategy for secure disposal of wastes that pose human and ecological risks for thousands of years. The longer-lived radionuclides that would need to be managed to prevent exposure have half-lives of 24,000 years, and the wastes will need to be securely managed for hundreds of thousands of years.
House Bill 103, as drafted, proposes to exempt from the state prohibition, the construction of a nuclear power facility within 50 miles of a site previously used for the manufacture of nuclear products.
My concerns with House Bill 103 include those listed above, and these additional concerns that arise from the approach taken in the bill:
There is no definition of a site previously used for the manufacture of nuclear products. While I believe your intent is to limit the lifting of the ban to Paducah, the lack of definition of manufacture of nuclear products could implicate a number of other areas within the Commonwealth. Assuming, for the moment, that manufacture of nuclear products is limited to federal facilities like PGDP that formerly were engaged in upgrading nuclear material through gaseous diffusion, the Portsmouth, Ohio facility located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio Rivers also upgraded uranium through gaseous diffusion, and is located within 50 miles of much of Greenup County. Additionally, the Fernald facility was a nuclear production facility located 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the 50-mile radius would take in much of the northern Kentucky counties.
To the extent that site formerly used in the manufacture of nuclear products could be construed to include the manufacture of radionuclide-assisted technologies, such as equipment manufactured and used in oil and gas development, medical treatment, and other technologies that incorporate nuclear technologies, the areas that could be subject to new nuclear plant siting might be even larger.
Lifting the ban will not provide any relief to the workers and the community that formerly supported the nuclear power plant industry by bearing the burden of the upgrading of nuclear material to fissile status. The recent announcement by TVA of cancellation of next generation nuclear power plants under development due to cost overruns and declining energy demand, reflects that even those utilities that are not price-sensitive are moving away from nuclear energy.
The bill, as written, would very likely be found unconstitutional as special legislation under Kentucky Constitution Section 59, since it creates a distinction pertaining to geographic areas that would be considered arbitrary.
Representative Watkins, I hope that you understand that KRC is not unaware of the significant burdens that the closure of the Gaseous Diffusion Plant created among a highly-skilled workforce and a community that has given much in terms of health and environmental pollution, to support the nuclear power industry. Nor is the Council insensitive to the burden that Paducahs participation in the Prairie State power plant has inflicted on the community ratepayers. When Representative Will Coursey and union workers at PDGP request, several years ago, that the current exemptions in KRS 278.605(2) be included in the law, KRC helped to draft and support those exemptions in order to help the community attract nuclear-assisted coal or gas conversion processes, which generate little waste relative to a nuclear power plant. We were criticized by environmental groups for doing so, but it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, a lifting of the nuclear plant ban, either on a geographical or statewide basis, we can unfortunately not support.
I look forward to working with you on other issues, and appreciate your advocacy on behalf of your constituents.
Cc: Rep. John Short
Thank you for your interest in Kentucky's environmental and public health. Individual contributions from donors across the Commonwealth make it possible for KRC to do its work every day, including advancing environmental, energy, and public health policies in Kentucky.