Millstone Looking To Significantly Increase Its Nuclear Waste Capacity

Because a national repository for spent nuclear fuel remains a broken promise, Millstone is looking to increase its number of dry cask storage units for nuclear waste from 19 up to 135.


Thanks to the continuing non-action by the federal government, Dominion is taking steps to drastically increase the amount of nuclear waste it can store at .

Millstone, as of now, has 19 dry cask storage units to hold nuclear waste, and 18 of them are filled. Dominion, owners of Millstone, will ask the Connecticut Siting Council if they can pour a cement pad capable of holding 135 dry cask storage units, enough to handle almost all the nuclear waste the site will produce until 2045, when the last license for the nuclear power plant expires.

Dominion maintains this is something they should have never had to build, as the federal government promised it would build a . But no repository exists, and likely won’t for awhile, forcing all 104 nuclear power plants across the country to store their own nuclear waste on-site.

“The federal government has a responsibility to take this fuel, and they are not living up to that responsibility,” Millstone spokesman Ken Holt said. “We don’t want to be in the long-term storage business.”

The Town of Waterford and the Town of East Lyme are holding an informational meeting on August 15 in the Waterford Town Hall Auditorium that is open to the public. The point is to give the public as much information as possible directly from Dominion, Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said.

“This is so people know what is happening,” Steward said. “Let Dominion tell (the public) directly.”

What Millstone Is Doing

Every time one of the units at Millstone is refueled, which is every 18 months, one-third of the nuclear material is taken out and replaced with new nuclear material. The old material, which is now nuclear waste, needs to be stored in a safe place, as it is still radioactive.

Millstone has been storing this waste since its inception in 1970 in spent fuel pools. Spent fuel pools are basically just large pools within the unit, where the waste is kept 20 feet below water to keep it cool and to avoid it from reacting.

The problem is, those pools are starting to fill up, so Dominion requested to build dry cast storage units to hold the fuel. These storage containers are outside of the reactors, and use a passive air system to keep the nuclear waste cool. Only nuclear waste that has sat in the spent fuel pools for five years can be moved to dry cask storage, Holt said.

Dominion secured approval to build 49 units dry caste storage units at Millstone from the Connecticut Siting Council, and was allowed to do the “underground work” for a concrete pad that would hold 135 units. In 2003, Millstone built 19 such units on top of a 173-foot long, 28-foot wide concrete pad, and has since filled 18 with nuclear waste from Unit 2.

Now Millstone wants to extend that concrete pad to hold up to 135 units, Holt said. Again, the Connecticut Siding Council already approved and Dominion has already completed the “underground” work of such a pad about 10 years ago, and this will just be pouring the concrete for the pad, he said.

Millstone will not build all 135 dry cask storage units at the same time, instead building them over time as they are needed, Holt said. Holt refused to comment on the cost of the project, although said it would be millions of dollars.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is okay with the plan, NRC Spokesman Neil Sheehan said. Sheehan said both dry cask storage and spent fuel pools are considered equally effective ways to store nuclear waste.

The pad will increase Millstone's assessed value, Waterford Tax Assessor Mike Bekech said. Bekech said he could not comment on exactly how much it would increase the value.

Yucca Mountain

While dry cask storage is a safe way to store the nuclear waste, the real answer is a nuclear repository, Holt said. Steward and East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica both agreed.

“We need to solve a problem with what to do with the waste,” Formica said. “To me, it makes sense to have a central storage system.”

The federal government spent billions of dollars to turn Yucca Mountain in Nevada into that repository, but the Obama administration has since cancelled those plans. Additionally, plans to recycle nuclear waste – a method employed in France – have been put on hold since the Carter Administration in the 1970s, Sheehan said.

That leaves no long-term solution on the horizon, Holt said. That means storing the nuclear waste from Millstone is up to Dominion, although the company has proven itself to handle such a job, Formica said.

“I certainly find Dominion a very capable company,” he said. “They’ve demonstrated through the operations of the plant that those of us who live by are justified to have confidence in them.”



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