Citizens Advisory Board members voted on Monday to take a position against storing spent fuel in the interim at the Savannah River Site following a discussion that grew heated at times.
Members of the Citizens Advisory Board's waste committee polled 22 members and delivered a vote of 12-to-10 after giving their individual thoughts on the issue.
The meeting turned into a public forum, as the waste committee allowed residents of the local community to also voice their opinions on the issue.
In route to uniformly opposing potential spent fuel dumping, the waste committee members highlighted several local and national-level concerns.
“The era of having the money to fund these projects is coming to an end,” said Ed Burke, a waste committee member. “If spent fuel is brought in, there's no timetable for it to leave.”
Spent fuel is defined as nuclear fuel that has been irradiated, or exposed to radiation, and removed from the core of a nuclear power reactor. Nationally, there is no long-term storage plan for the nation's spent fuel, which is why Congress is considering interim storage until a new geologic storage facility is secured.
“If we allow spent fuel to come here, property values will plummet and the CAB will lose credibility,” added committee member Rose Hayes. “We're not questioning SRS; the Site has great credibility. But it is operating under the constraints of a federal budget, and the DOE has poor credibility with budgeting.”
While the majority of the committee sided with Plan A, which opposed housing the spent fuel, one member spoke in favor of Plan B.
Plan B proposed withholding a decision until the board could learn more about the storage process in addition to submitting a list of incentives, such as job opportunities, economic growth, and promised safety and security regulations.
“Why take a hard-line position on an issue for which we have no insight about?” said committee member Don Bridges. “SRS has a proven record and can deal with such materials adequately. I'm not saying we should agree to bring spent fuel here. But it would be unwise to make a decision this early in the process.”
Several local residents also voiced their concerns, with many of them siding with Plan A.
“If you ask me if I want spent fuel in my backyard, I'm gonna tell you, 'Hell no!'” one community member said.
The next step for the waste committee is formally presenting the decision to the Citizens Advisory Board during a full board meeting on Monday, July 22. The meeting will be a closed session, during which the board may make a final decision to submit to the Department of Energy.
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard news team and joined the paper in June. He is from Vidalia, Ga., and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a journalism degree in May 2012.