Burned nuclear worker, troubled history raise EPA concern over SC atomic fuel plant
- Dec 3, 2021 3:47 pm GMT
In a recent letter to the
"We have environmental concerns regarding water resources, air quality, climate, environmental justice and tribal issues that should be addressed" in a final environmental study, as well as a pending safety evaluation, the agency's
Both the environmental and safety studies Fite referred to are to be completed prior to the NRC deciding on a new license for Westinghouse. A final decision on whether to grant the license is expected next June, the NRC says.
Among other things, the
According to the NRC, it received a total of 65 pieces of correspondence about the environmental study, including letters from government agencies.
The draft NRC study, formally called an Environmental Impact Statement, said that although the Westinghouse fuel plant would have an effect on the environment if the license is approved, the impacts would not be substantial enough to warrant denying the license. The draft NRC study recommended a 40-year-license be issued.
While the decision to grant the license is ultimately the NRC's, the chorus of complaints by government environmental agencies could prompt the nuclear agency to consider giving Westinghouse less than 40 years to operate its plant if a new permit is granted.
Built in 1969, the Westinghouse plant makes fuel rods for the nation's commercial atomic power plants. The factory is one of only a handful in the country and is considered important to the generation of nuclear power, as well as the local economy. It employs more than 1,000 workers in the
But it has been beset with accidents and environmental problems, including groundwater contamination beneath the site on
Recent problems include a buildup of radioactive uranium in an air pollution control device, leaking shipping containers and a leak of uranium through the plant's floor.
Neighbors and nuclear safety activists say those and other problems are good reasons for the license period to be shortened to 10 or 20 years, instead of 40 years, if the NRC decides to grant a new permit for Westinghouse.
Many worry that tainted groundwater will pollute wells with dangerous radioactive and hazardous chemicals that could make them sick, even though the company says pollution is contained on the site. Among pollutants in groundwater at the plant are radioactive materials and nitrate, a material toxic to babies who drink formula made from polluted water.
Uranium and Technetium 99, two radioactive materials, should not be discharged to the
The NRC's environmental study revealed "uncertainty" about the source and extent of water pollution and how contaminants might move off the site, the
Fite's letter to the NRC questioned how the earth's changing climate could intensify rains and create more polluted runoff from the Westinghouse site, as is believed to have occurred during a massive
It recommended that the final environmental study and pending safety evaluation of a new 40-year license provide a more detailed look at climate-related threats. It says the closer look should examine "severe weather events that could potentially impact the local and downstream communities."
Air pollution from the plant also needs examination to estimate the total impacts on the environment and local communities, the letter said.
Aside from those concerns, the
Spokespeople for the
In regard to questions about Technetium 99 and uranium discharges to the
"Westinghouse remains dedicated to conducting our operations in a safe and environmentally sound, socially responsible manner," she said in an email.
Asked by The State about the
The NRC said the accident occurred in August and is part of an ongoing review by the nuclear agency. An inspection report will be issued by
(c)2021 The State (Columbia, S.C.)
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