Maine Yankee

Panel calls on Congress to help get nuclear waste out of Wiscasset

One resident, one reporter attend annual meeting
Posted:  Friday, September 12, 2014 - 12:15pm

Getting Congress to take action is key to getting Maine Yankee’s spent nuclear fuel out of Wiscasset, according to members of a panel pushing for the federal government to take the waste.

One panel member, Wiscasset farmer and former selectman Steve Jarrett, said he thought a Yucca Mountain, Nevada, site looked ready years ago to receive the waste.

Instead, he said, the fact the waste is still in Wiscasset serves as a perfect example of what’s going on in Washington today.

“They’re kicking the can down the road, so they don’t have to worry about it. And until somebody comes down and starts making some noise about getting things done, it’s not going to change,” Jarrett said Sept. 11 at the yearly meeting of the Maine Yankee Community Advisory Panel on Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage and Removal (CAP).

Members acknowledged that Maine’s Congressional delegation has been trying. An April letter from several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including  congressmen Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and Mike Michaud, D-Maine, asks leaders of an energy and water development subcommittee for help in getting the spent fuel issue addressed.

CAP members on Thursday decided to send Maine’s congressional delegation a letter thanking it for its efforts and encouraging it to continue to work to get the spent fuel moved.

Public turnout for the meeting at Taste of Maine in Woolwich consisted of former Wiscasset selectman Ed Polewarczyk and a Wiscasset Newspaper reporter.

But CAP Chairman Don Hudson didn’t read the rows of empty chairs as a sign people are not interested in what becomes of the waste that still sits in above-ground casks on the Bailey Point peninsula.

“The day is going to come when someone says, ‘OK, we’re going to move fuel. And then the room is going to be filled with people,” Hudson said. “And the sooner that day comes, the better.”

That still appears at least a couple of decades off, according to panel members and Maine Yankee spokesman Eric Howes. When the CAP met a year ago, the U.S. Department of Energy was eying a pilot project to move the fuel from Wiscasset and other sites of closed nuclear plants, to an interim storage site, as soon as 2021.

But in the past year, Congress has not changed the nuclear waste management program to allow the project, according to Maine Yankee’s annual report to the CAP.

Also Thursday, the panel heard that the federal government will not be appealing a judge’s November 2013, $235.4 million award to Maine Yankee, Yankee Atomic and Connecticut Yankee, in connection with their costs to store waste. Maine Yankee’s $35.8 million share was for storage from 2003 through 2008. The companies got paid $160 million from an earlier case centering on storage costs that, for Maine Yankee, ran from 1998 through 2002.

The companies have ongoing claims for storage costs from 2009 to 2012.

The panel approved Misty Parker of Dresden and Stacy Linehan of Westport Island as new members.

Maine Yankee created the panel in 1997 to keep the public informed on issues surrounding the plant's decommissioning. Since then the panel has moved on to storage and removal issues.