May 23, 2019

Abolition of waste authority debated > Court decision on radioactive waste calls body’s existence into question

PRESQUE ISLE — While an advisory group to the state’s Low-Level Radioactive Waste Authority debated Thursday whether the authority should be abolished in view of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, no action was taken on a motion to make a recommendation to the Legislature.

“We have an opportunity here to stop the siting process (for a low-level waste-disposal site),” said Phil Merletti, a Citizens Advisory Board member and spokesman for Maine Citizens Against Nuclear Dumps.

At issue was a court decision in June that stated states cannot be forced to take care of radioactive waste. The option to establish a waste site remains, according to the decision.

The advisory group formulates recommendations to the authority. While about 70 people are listed as members of the group, only a few came to Presque Isle for the panel’s monthly meeting.

Although three sites in and around Garfield Plantation have been selected for review as a possible site for a waste facility, few local spectators attended. One woman in the audience said that interested parties were harvesting potatoes and at a senior citizens meeting in Caribou.

Merletti said Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter plans to inform the Legislature in January about the court decision.

Speaking at the meeting, Bill Radel said the group needs to side with the court decision.

“The Supreme Court made a good decision,” Radel said. “The state of Maine can’t be forced to take this garbage and do something with it.”

Another CAG member, Thomas Verrault of Concerned Citizens of Auburn, said that no state money should be spent to support a radioactive waste facility. He said that waste generators, such as Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset, should take responsibility.

“If they can’t take care of it, they’ll have to shut down,” Verrault said.

In other business, the group discussed the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s apparent rejection of the radioactive waste authority’s above-ground storage proposal. However, both the authority and some advisory group members said the NRC’s preferred concept of below-surface storage was unacceptable.

The authority worked with University of Maine engineers to design the storage proposal. The facility would have a concrete building shielded by a second structure.

Matthew Scott, deputy director of the radioactive waste authority, said the underground concept fails to consider how the waste material could be retrieved, if necessary, and monitored.

Criticizing the authority, Merletti said the NRC’s tactics were another roadblock that showed the authority’s ineffectiveness. He also said the authority was using an experimental facility design.

“You’re asking the people of Maine to be the guinea pigs for your experiment,” Merletti said. “You’re not going to do it with radioactive waste in Maine.”

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

comments for this post are closed

You may also like