August 25, 2013 11:31:21 AM
JACKSON -- A nonprofit group tied to energy businesses says Mississippi should consider becoming a storage place for used nuclear fuel.
Representatives of the Mississippi Energy Institute will meet Monday at the state Capitol with the Senate Economic Development Committee. After that, they'll have a closed-door meeting at the Old Capitol Inn with business people and Republican U.S. Reps. Alan Nunnelee and Gregg Harper.
Proponents say that since opponents appear to have blocked federal plans to store the country's nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev., there's an opportunity to bring billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs by storing it in Mississippi. They say that because the federal government has moved slowly in creating centralized storage sites, nuclear plants, such as Entergy's Grand Gulf plant in Port Gibson, Miss., are storing used nuclear fuel in above-ground casks on site.
"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."
Louie Miller is state director for an environmental group, the Sierra Club. He told The Clarion-Ledger on Friday that the storage proposal is a bad idea. He said there was public backlash over a similar proposal to store nuclear waste in the Richton salt domes in south Mississippi in the 1980s.
"You've got to be kidding me. We went through this fight 30 years ago," Miller said. "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."
But 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."
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has pushed to diversify energy options.
"The governor continues to look at other nuclear opportunities and is interested in learning more about this," Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said Friday.
A white paper from the Mississippi Energy Institute says the state has the chance 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 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."
Mississippi Energy Institute: http://www.mei.ms/