Closed Kewaunee plant seeks safety exemptions
- Associated Press
- May 9, 2014 - 10:40 AM
CARLTON, Wis. — The owner of the shuttered Kewaunee Power Station is seeking an exemption to federal safety rules that it says are outdated and overly conservative, but five U.S. senators say the rules governing storage of nuclear material should be maintained.
Dominion Resources Inc. shut down the Kewaunee nuclear plant last year. The spent fuel rods will be placed in storage in 2016.
Federal regulations say an emergency protection zone needs to be maintained up to 50 miles around the storage site. But Kewaunee spokesman Mark Kanz said that rule overstates the possible dangers, Press-Gazette Media reported (http://gbpg.net/1j3DAcU ).
"What we are looking for is a waiver for requirements that really no longer are applicable," Kanz said. He said a Dominion analysis showed that after about 17 months of treatment, spent nuclear fuel has limited impact onsite and no impact offsite.
Federal law requires that the U.S. government provide a national repository for spent fuel, but that hasn't happened yet, and it's not clear whether that will move forward. In the meantime Dominion is providing onsite security as long as fuel is stored there, Kanz said.
Three other nuclear plants, in California, Florida and Vermont, are also seeking safety exemptions from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But five senators — four Democrats and a left-leaning Independent — say the exemption requests should be denied.
The senators — Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Bernard Sanders and Patrick Leahy of Vermont — argue that the safety rules are in place for a reason.
The senators wrote to the regulatory commission citing studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the NRC itself, which determined that draining a pool of spent nuclear fuel can lead to fires, radioactive releases and widespread contamination. Given risks such as a potential terrorist attack, the current regulations should remain in full force, they said.
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