Georgia Environmental Group Criticizes Federal Handling of Nuclear Waste Storage

Jan 4, 2013

Georgia Power and a group of partners are currently expanding the nuclear power plant at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. Spent fuels rods are kept on site, which environmental groups say increases the risk of radioactive leakage in the event of an accident.

A Georgia environmental organization has joined other groups across the country saying federal regulators aren’t taking nuclear waste disposal seriously.

Georgia has four nuclear reactors, and two more in construction near Augusta. The spent fuel rods produced in these plants are stored on site.

As a result, some claim Georgians are at a higher risk of radioactive exposure in the event of an accident. 

“The longer you leave the waste in the reactor and the more spent fuel there is in the reactor, the higher risk for a meltdown or fire,” said Courtney Hanson of Georgia Women's Action for New Directions.

The United States has never been able to figure out a permanent location to store spent nuclear fuel rods.

Last year, a federal appeals court ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to find a long-term solution.

The NRC says it will come up with a plan in two years, but Hanson, along with more than 20 environmental originations, says it’s not enough time to do a comprehensive assessment that includes lessons learned from 2011’s Fukushima meltdown in Japan.

“With this very short two-year deadline the NRC would fail to implement new safety recommendations from the Fukushima task force because there simply wouldn’t be enough time,” said Hanson.

NRC spokesman Roger Hanna disputed that and says 20 full-time staffers are working to develop a plan. He says the NRC is taking the court order seriously.

“The commission has set the two year deadline and committed the resources necessary to meet it and we’re confident we can complete a thorough study,” said Hanna.

In the meantime, the NRC has suspended issuing construction licenses to new nuclear projects.  

However, it will not affect Georgia’s Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion project and a similar project in South Carolina.