MISSISSIPPI ISSUES: MS Politicians Pushing to Bring Nuclear Waste to Salt Domes--Again

The Mississippi Energy Institute is making a pitch to politicians and business leaders that Mississippi get into the used nuclear fuel storage business.

MEI will make a presentation Monday to the state Senate Economic Development Committee, then have a closed meeting with business and political leaders.

Proponents say that since opponents appear to have shot down federal government plans to store the country’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev., there’s an opportunity for Mississippi to bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs by storing it here.

They say that because the federal government has moved so slow in creating centralized storage sites, nuclear plants, such as Grand Gulf in Port Gibson, are storing their used nuclear fuel in aboveground casks onsite.

But environmentalists say the idea is a bad one, and note the uproar a similar proposal to store nuclear waste in the Richton salt domes caused in Mississippi in the 1980s.

“When the U.S. decides to have a nuclear power renaissance, tremendous industry will come from that – there will be huge investment and job creation,” said Patrick Sullivan, president of the Mississippi Energy Institute. “Whatever the next renaissance in nuclear technologies will be, we believe it will take place adjacent to consolidated storage facilities.”

State Sierra Club spokesman Louie Miller said: “You’ve got to be kidding me. We went through this fight 30 years ago. Does Mississippi not have a bad enough image problem nationally without becoming a radioactive dump for the U.S. and probably the rest of the world? … I don’t care how many jobs it creates, if any. Think of how many it would destroy. This is a bad idea. This is something you don’t want in your backyard.”

Sullivan said: “Bad perceptions of the nuclear fuel industry are just that, perceptions. The industry has the best safety record of any in the U.S. Not a single person has died as a result of radioactivity from the industry in the U.S.”

Gov. Phil Bryant has pushed for Mississippi to expand and diversify its energy production. His spokesman Mick Bullock on Friday said: “The governor continues to look at other nuclear opportunities and is interested in learning more about this.”

Miller said: “We went through this with the Richton salt dome back in the ‘80s, and everybody and their brother came out against it, Democrat and Republican. It drove Congressman Trent Lott, kicking and screaming, to the conclusion it’s a bad idea.
Have they not heard of Fukushima?”

Sullivan said Japan, which suffered a terrible nuclear disaster in 2011, “lacked the controls that the U.S. or France has” on nuclear power and storage.

A white paper from the MEI says Mississippi has the opportunity to “structure a consent-based host agreement that delivers significant economic development, employment and security benefits.”

It says in the short term, a storage area would see a $500 million site with almost 100 jobs, and major highway and transportation upgrades to safely bring in the material.

Then, the report says, a storage area would see midterm infrastructure and recycling investments of more than $15 billion and creation of more than 18,000 direct jobs during construction and 5,000 jobs for the next 50 years.

In the long term, the report says, “Mississippi’s unique geologic salt domes provide an opportunity for co-located repository facilities, making Mississippi most competitive with the ability to fully manage all materials in one area … estimates for long-term disposal costs are roughly $100 billion over the project life of 100 years.”

To contact Geoff Pender, call (601) 961-7266 or follow @GeoffPender on Twitter.

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