Nuclear waste storage unsafe anywhere
By Carol A. Overland
Regarding Arthur K. Olsen's letter, Northern States Power's attempts at siting nuclear waste in Minnesota have been met with the same resounding negative response as in Utah.
No matter how you look at it, storage of high-level nuclear waste is frightening. I represented Florence Township, Minn., in its struggle against NSP's efforts to site nuclear waste in the township. Despite state denial of NSP's state permit, the NRC application moved forward, and the state action was ineffective to stop it. It stopped only when NSP withdrew the application.
The people of Florence Township investigated nuclear waste issues, held educational community forums and participated in our state's Environmental Quality Board's (EQB) Siting Advisory Task Force. We sued the state agencies and county, and intervened in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing proceedings.
Our task force's report concluded that siting nuclear waste in Florence Township was a bad idea, that storage of nuclear waste on Prairie Island was a bad idea and that the concerns regarding nuclear waste must be addressed responsibly.
The conclusions of the task force were that federal solutions are doubtful, and siting in the state threatens the health and safety of citizens. "Temporary" storage may be permanent; there were unprecedented and irregular actions by the state Legislature, Public Utilities Commission and other state agencies in apparent violation of Minnesota laws intended to address siting of nuclear waste: NSP did not comply with Minnesota's Certificate of Need process, which bases facility authorization on demonstration of need.
NSP's application was found inadequate because it did not adequately consider public safety issues regarding movement, handling, storage, security and maintenance of casks; public health issues regarding long-term, low-level radioactive emissions; emergency response capabilities and funding for emergency response; accurate demographics of local residents, business, farms; significant decrease in local property values and tax base.
Also, it didn't address the impact of nuclear waste on recreational activities and tourism economy; impact of nuclear waste on aesthetics of one of the most beautiful regions in the country; protection of groundwater and the Mississippi River; potential for damage to migratory and terrestrial wildlife. There are no risk and/or cost-acceptable alternatives to on-site storage, which for an undeterminable period of time is unacceptable. Many significant environmental issues were not addressed and must be addressed in an environmental impact statement.
The task force recommended that off-site storage not receive further consideration. "There is no demonstrated, viable alternate site, and there is no assurance of when irradiated fuel will be moved to an interim or permanent storage facility."
I trust that this will sound familiar to the people of Utah. The same issues raised regarding nuclear waste storage in Minnesota apply to Utah as well. NSP did not turn over an emergency plan to Lake City, the first responders, as required by federal regulations. Sound familiar? NSP told us there was plenty of time to respond and that our lawsuits were "premature." Sound familiar?
NSP told us that dry cask storage was safe, but at that same time, a cask blew up in Point Beach, Wis., and many others have failing welds. Sound familiar? The truth is that NSP would just as soon not address any of these concerns, not face questions of the public, and not be held responsible for nuclear waste.
Utah has demonstrated that its governor and Legislature are not bought and paid for by NSP. You have public officials willing to stand up for your citizens, state agencies willing to fight effectively and valiantly, and citizens willing to speak out. The citizens of Florence Township did not have this support. Nuclear waste storage is not safe in Utah, it is not in Minnesota, it is not safe on Prairie Island. It's that simple.
Carol A. Overland is former attorney for Florence Township, Minn., on nuclear waste issues.