Activists Speak Out against Importing German Nuclear Waste to Savannah River Site, at Hearing
(APN) AUGUSTA — The U.S. Department of Energy held a hearing at the North Augusta Community Center on June 24, 2014, regarding a proposal to import nuclear waste from Germany to be stored at Savannah River Site (SRS).
APN previously reported on the proposal in depth:
DOE is soliciting public comments on the prospects through July 21, 2014.
While more people spoke against the proposal at the hearing than not, it was a heated debate.
Residents and environmental group have concerns about the impacts on the communities in Georgia and South Carolina living near the site and say they don’t want SRS to be known as the world’s nuclear waste dump.
“The citizens of the Aiken area do not want to be known as the world’s spent fuel dump and this is where this is heading, it’s very obvious. We cannot be the guardians of the world’s weapons’ useable material. Other people have to step up and take responsibility for that, otherwise the Savannah River Site is going to be the endpoint for all of this stuff worldwide. Is that what the citizens of South Carolina want? Outside of the citizens who have a vested interest in this
industry, I can’t find anybody who does,” Susan Corbett, chair of the South Carolina Sierra Club said.
Germany is poised to send about one million baseball sized graphite spheres containing spent nuclear fuel to the SRS nuclear weapons complex on the Georgia/South Carolina border.
The Savannah River National Lab is receiving payment from the Germans to develop technology to dispose of this waste from pebble bed reactors. In total, about 455 casks of waste could be shipped to the site through the Port of Charleston and then via rail.
The U.S. sent highly enriched uranium to Germany between 1965 and 1988, which was used for fuel in the Arbeitsgemeinscharft Versuchsreakto (AVR) reactor and the Thorium High Temperature Reactor.
Proponents for the waste from these reactors being shipped to the US say that such activities are allowed under Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Program. Current German law, however, may prevent the shipments.
“The backers of the proposal have a real dilemma because under German law since 2005 it is illegal to export spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing and disposal abroad,” Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch said. “So some in Germany and DOE are engaged in what I believe is deception, trying to reclassify the reactors as research reactors but nothing in the record supports that.”
The Department of Energy (DOE) is still considering whether it will accept the waste at the site and what the disposition path will be.
With no federal waste repository and the current closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico–the only site in the U.S. equipped for long term waste storage–it’s likely that any shipments brought to SRS would stay there even after processing.
The Savannah River Site Citizen’s Advisory Board (SRS CAB), federally appointed to oversee the site’s operations, is concerned the project could take the site off track from its cleanup mission. They have drafted several points of recommendation that will be finalized at their next full meeting July 22.
“The Environmental Assessment scope should include an analysis of the impacts if the new project causes delays in current missions at the site. This analysis should specifically analyze the impacts if the closing of high level waste tanks and the processing of spent nuclear fuel from L Basin are delayed by this new project,” Marolyn Parson, Chair of the SRS CAB, said.
Comments may be sent to the DOE through July 21, 2014, either emailed to Drew.Grainger@srs.gov or mailed to Drew Grainger, NEPA Compliance Officer, German HEU Fuel Environmental Assessment, U.S. Department of Energy, P.O. Box A, Aiken, South Carolina 29801.