August 29, 2013 8:51:47 AM
JACKSON -- Gov. Phil Bryant is interested in Mississippi getting in on "recycling" or reprocessing nuclear waste, and perhaps manufacturing components for reactors, not nuclear waste storage.
Nonetheless, Bryant tells The Clarion-Ledger that opponents are overreacting to and uninformed about proposals to store nuclear waste in Mississippi.
"I am disappointed in the overreaction, and that's what it is, overreaction," Bryant said Tuesday. "It's amazing to me that any discussion about nuclear power causes such a reaction. What other topics are we not allowed to discuss? Alternative energy? Wind power or solar? There's been no discussion that I have heard about using a salt dome for permanent storage."
Opponents have said they don't want nuclear waste stored or reprocessed in Mississippi, and that technology hasn't reached a point to make that safe.
Bryant said opponents are trying to stir emotions and are thwarting open discussion about the issue, which he says is only in the beginning phase.
The Mississippi Energy Institute is pushing for more exploration of storing and reprocessing used nuclear fuel in the state. Leaders of the institute pitched ideas Monday to the state Senate Economic Development Committee.
Jason Dean, who works for a unit of the Butler Snow law firm, said Mississippi should explore interim storage and reprocessing of fuel rods. He said receiving used fuel rods and reprocessing them could create 4,000 permanent jobs and $30 million a year in taxes.
He said the proposal doesn't include permanent underground storage, saying that's the role for the stalled Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. Instead, Mississippi would accept the waste in giant concrete casks, reuse most of it and ship the remainder to Nevada.
But the Energy Institute also touts Mississippi's "unique geologic salt domes," in a two-page proposal for a "nuclear cluster" that it has published. That's an echo of a proposal to entomb nuclear waste in the Richton salt dome that sparked public opposition in the 1980s. Richton was an also-ran in the federal site selection process that designated Yucca Mountain, as was another nearby Mississippi salt dome, Cypress Creek.
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, the Biloxi Republican who represents Richton and the rest of south Mississippi, opposes the idea.
"I think nuclear waste storage in any form is a bad idea for Mississippi, and particularly anything involving the salt domes in Richton," Palazzo said in a statement.
Right now, it's illegal to reprocess nuclear fuel in the United States, a ban in place since the 1970s. There's also a Mississippi law against storing nuclear material underground.