Illinois officials reach out to Wiscasset on nuclear waste bill

Co-sponsorship sought for legislation
Posted:  Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 12:00pm
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The dry cask storage site on Maine Yankee property on Bailey Point, Wiscasset. File photo

Wiscasset and Zion, Illinois — a city of over 24,000  — have something in common; both were once home to nuclear power plants and are left with dry cask sites where nuclear wastes are stored.

On June 17, Zion officials emailed  Wiscasset selectmen asking them to join in a forthcoming legislative effort. A proposed bill would provide federal funding to address nuclear waste storage sites like the one at Zion near the Lake Michigan shore and the site at Wiscasset on Bailey Point, the site of the former Maine Yankee nuclear plant.

The email, from Cheri L. Neal, Zion Township supervisor, was sent to the Wiscasset town office. Attached to it was a draft of the legislation to serve as a framework for the bill to be introduced by Illinois Congressman Robert J. Dodd, possibly before the end of the year.

“We ask that you contact Congresswoman Chellie Pingree as soon as possible and request that she co-sponsor this bill when presented on the floor,” it states. “We look forward to partnering with your community on this initiative,”  

The bill, titled “Interim Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage Compensation Act of 2016,” is seeking between $92 million and $100 million in federal funding to assist Zion, Wiscasset and 11 other communities where waste from former nuclear generating stations is being stored. They include Vernon, Vermont, home of Vermont Yankee, Yankee Rowe in Rowe, Massachusetts and Connecticut Yankee at Haddam Neck, Connecticut.

Town officials of those communities have been asked by Zion officials to get in touch with their Congressional representatives as well.  If the bill as it appears in draft form is eventually passed and funding is approved, a payout to the communities will be based on the metric tons of nuclear wastes stored at each facility.

According documentation attached to the email, 6,196.4 metric tons of nuclear wastes are being stored at the 13 sites. Wiscasset’s share of the funding was listed at $8.1 million.

The proposal would authorize payments each year through 2021 but could be amended to be a one-time payment. The factors for determining what funding a community receives could change as well, it states.

Town Manager Marian Anderson said she’s awaiting direction from the board of selectmen on Zion’s request. Anderson said the proposal is on the agenda for the board’s July 12 meeting.

The Wiscasset Newspaper contacted Neal by email on June 23 seeking additional information. Ms. Neal responded that she had forwarded the newspaper’s email to Zion Mayor Al Hill. To date there’s been no response received from the mayor’s office.

Zion is located in Lake County, Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago and a just few miles south of the Wisconsin border. The city was home to a duel nuclear generating facility operated by Commonweath Edison. Reactor 1 went online in 1973 about a year after Maine Yankee started generating power. The second Zion reactor began operation in 1974. The facility shut down in 1998 and the operating license expired in 2013. Maine Yankee shut down in 1996 and has since been dismantled.

Like those in Wiscasset, radioactive materials from the Zion plant are being stored in dry casks until the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy can come up with a permanent storage solution. Find out more at www.energy.gov/ne/consent-based-siting.

On June 3, Wiscasset hosted a meeting of DOE officials to discuss the issue. This followed a regional DOE meeting held at Boston and attended by Selectman Ben Rines Jr.