PDT Staff Writer
The possibility of the Atomic Plant site at Piketon becoming a storage and reprocessing site for spent nuclear fuel rods has brought opposition from a citizens advisory board formed last year to oversee and make recommendations on the future use of the site.
“The Portsmouth Site Specific Board believes it has a responsibility to the larger community we represent to oppose consideration of Piketon for any future interim storage of spent nuclear fuel,” board member Julie Stout of West Portsmouth said in a statement issued Thursday.
She said a committee meeting held Feb. 24 resulted in the committee unanimously passing -- for a second time -- the recommendation for such opposition.
The committee’s action clears the way for the full board to vote on the matter when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Piketon Endeavor Center. The recommendation will go to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The full board heard the recommendation when it received its first reading at the board’s Feb. 5 meeting.
The board’s decision will please environmental groups opposed to Piketon being chosen for the site for storage of high level radioactive waste. At a Dec. 2 meeting on the matter at the Vern Riffe Career Technology Center at Piketon, representatives of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Southern Ohio Neighbors Group and Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety & Security were on hand to voice their opposition.
The featured speaker, Ivan Oelrich, Ph.D, vice president of the Strategic Security Program for the Federation of American Scientists out of Washington, D.C., said Piketon is on the short list, if not at the top, of a list of facilities around the country hoping to land the site.
He added, however, that such reprocessing as would be needed requires large amounts of water, and for that reason he did not believe Piketon will be chosen for the site.
“Piketon is not the frontrunner,” Oelrich said. “Probably the most likely place where they would do this is the Savannah River in South Carolina.”
Later that same day, the DOE held a meeting at the center to explain why it had applied for the site, how the fuel might be reprocessed under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program, and to hear public comments concerning the process.
The Portsmouth Citizens Advisory Board was formed last year, after DOE began accepting applications from interested citizens in March.
Congress issued the Consolidate Appropriations Act in 2008 calling for DOE to develop a plan for taking custody of spent nuclear fuel currently stored at decommissioned reactor sites. The act specifically requested that DOE focus its search for a storage site on existing federal sites and those that had volunteered to host Global Nuclear Energy Partnership facilities. The decision to pick a site rests solely in the hands of DOE. Ten other sites besides Piketon are under consideration.
The spent radio-active plutonium is in fuel rods the size of a dime and will come to the processing facility in bundles that weigh a ton. The 20 pounds of plutonium each holds is enough to build a nuclear bomb, bringing about extra concern for security at the site.
The advisory board, according to the report prepared by Stout, said choosing Piketon as the storage site would disrupt and delay the completion of DOE’s current remediation and Decommissioning and Decontamination plans now under way.
“Such a facility would not bring needed jobs or economic development to the area,” the report says. “On the contrary, the storage of spent nuclear fuel at Piketon would effectively prohibit the revitalization of our area.”
The advisory board’s recommendation on the matter will call for the Piketon site to “never include the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel.”
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.