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Georgia WAND in the Atlanta Journal Constitution “Nuclear waste task force meets in Atlanta”

By Kristi E. Swartz
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If the United States doesn't reconsider opening Yucca Mountain, then another national repository to store nuclear waste should be built, an executive with Southern Nuclear said Tuesday.

"We believe that the technical knowledge developed for Yucca Mountain should be preserved," said Paula Marino, vice president of engineering for Southern Nuclear. "Southern supports research design and development to improve on existing designs."

Southern Nuclear, a sister company to Georgia Power, is waiting for federal regulators to issue a key permit to start heavy construction on two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, near Augusta. Just as the utility is months away from likely building the first newly permitted nuclear reactors in three decades, a special federal government task force met in Atlanta Tuesday to discuss options for storing nuclear waste.

The Obama administration canceled plans to build a permanent underground nuclear storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The Department of Energy formed the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future to find alternative storage options. The commission is recommending, among other things, creating new sites to store nuclear waste and creating an additional agency to oversee that. Money to pay for the sites would come from a taxpayer-supported Nuclear Waste Fund.

Marino said if a new organization was created to handle nuclear waste, it should be depoliticized so that money intended to help pay for nuclear waste storage doesn't get caught up in changing political winds.

Other utilities, including SCANA in South Carolina, are lining up behind Southern Nuclear to build or expand their nuclear plants, bringing the issue of what to do with waste to the forefront. While expensive to build, utilities are turning to nuclear as a way to provide electricity that is less polluting than coal and less dependent on foreign oil.

Southern operates six reactors: two at Vogtle, two at Plant Hatch and two at Plant Farley, in Alabama. The spent

Bobbie Paul addressing the Blue Ribbon Commission

fuel rods are stored in pools of water at Vogtle. At Hatch and Farley, they are kept in dry-cask facilities, a Southern Nuclear spokeswoman said.

The Vogtle project's opponents include the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the anti-nuclear group, Georgia WAND. Bobbie Paul, the group's executive director, urged the commission not to create any interim storage facilities or allow waste to be transported anywhere.

"That's an invitation to the nuclear industry to think about nuclear reprocessing," she said.

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