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Plant owner wants to hasten nuclear waste transfer

  • Associated Press
  • July 7, 2014 - 9:45 AM

MILWAUKEE — The owner of the Kewaunee nuclear power plant wants to speed up the transfer of nuclear waste from a cooling pool inside the reactor to more secure long-term storage casks.

Dominion Resources Inc. is seeking to accelerate the transfer by the end of 2016, four years earlier than its initial plan. Dominion has hired NAC International to build and fill the storage casks. Radioactive rods of spent nuclear fuel are cooling in a large pool inside the plant along the shore of Lake Michigan. It stopped producing power more than a year ago.

The rods eventually will be encased in 24 concrete casks, which stand 18 feet tall on a pad outside the reactor building. Dominion spokesman Mark Kanz tells the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1jYSyge ) the company has changed its plans because of concerns of the local community.

Residents and officials in the Kewaunee County Town of Carlton have been critical of the company's plan to take the full 60 years allowed by the federal government to decommission the power plant, saying it would hurt redevelopment of the area.

Kanz said accelerating the transfer of spent fuel doesn't necessarily mean Dominion will take less time to decommission the plant, but it clears the way for a speedier timetable.

"Nothing else in the schedule is moved up at this point, but it certainly opens the door of the possibility of that happening down the road," he said. "We'll keep that in mind as we make our plans for the future."

Once the nuclear fuel rods are relocated, it's unclear how long the casks will remain at the site. That's because the federal government has no long-term plan for disposing of the waste now stored at reactors around the country. Wisconsin has 1,430 tons of spent nuclear fuel, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will review Dominion's plans to accelerate the speed up the transfer to ensure there are no safety or public health risks.

© 2014 Star Tribune