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Press Release: Blue Ribbon Commission Spotlights Southeast Nuclear Issues

AUGUSTA- Augusta was buzzing Friday, January 7,  with talk of whether the Southeast could become America’s newest nuclear dumping ground.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, under the authority of the U.S. Department of Energy, hosted an open meeting on nuclear issues at the Marriott Hotel in Augusta, which provided a platform for local groups and legislators to express concerns and answer questions from the Commissioners.

Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) is concerned that the Commission’s visit to the area may signal DOE interest in the creation of energy parks designed in part for the reprocessing and storage of nuclear waste, at the Savannah River Site, a U.S. nuclear weapons complex near Aiken, South Carolina, just across the river from Augusta.

“The Blue Ribbon Commission is helping inform the entire country of the enormous nuclear waste problem that we all share,” Georgia WAND Executive Director, Bobbie Paul said.  “Hopefully the public will become more aware of this persistent, 60-year-old issue that we have. I applaud the administration and the BRC for taking leadership on this issue. There are no easy solutions and what we want to make sure does not happen is being left to store six to seven times the amount of nuclear waste than we currently have, which is what reprocessing would do.”

Such actions could further establish the Southeast as a more permanent nuclear dumping ground, thus intensifying the environmental, health and safety burdens already suffered by those living in the shadow of nuclear weapons facilities like SRS in South Carolina and commercial nuclear power reactors, like the nearby Plant Vogtle, in Georgia.

“Because some (areas surrounding nuclear reactors) are small communities who are primarily poor, minority, marginalized, and disenfranchised, large polluters think that they do not matter. We know that the communities that we have referenced are not receiving fair treatment relative to having to deal with these cumulative health and pollution burdens,” Dianne Valentin, Georgia WAND board member and speaker on the meeting’s Environmental Perspectives Panel said.

Georgia WAND also advocates for the restoration of environmental monitoring to the state of Georgia (through Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division) This important monitoring would inform the public of the radioactive impacts on vegetation, rainfall, well water, the Savannah River, livestock, peanuts and other crops and the air, specifically in Georgia’s Burke and Screven counties.

Several other panelists from Aiken, Augusta and the surrounding region agreed “We do not want SRS to become the new Yucca Mountain (a proposed repository in Nevada for spent nuclear fuel that was recently deemed an unsuitable site after years of planning).”

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