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Community Advisory Board might be part of Three Mile Island nuclear plant closure

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 9/11/19

Will a Community Advisory Board be established to help ensure public input into the decommissioning of Unit 1 of Three Mile Island?

It remains to be seen.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission …

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Community Advisory Board might be part of Three Mile Island nuclear plant closure

Posted

Will a Community Advisory Board be established to help ensure public input into the decommissioning of Unit 1 of Three Mile Island?

It remains to be seen.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines a community advisory board as “an organized group of citizens interested in safe decommissioning practices and spent fuel management at a decommissioning facility.”

Such a board typically consists of local community leaders and elected officials, state representatives, and members of the staff of the licensee of the nuclear power plant — in this case Exelon, the owner of Unit 1 of TMI.

What does a community advisory board do?

Again, according to the NRC, the board would review and provide feedback on the strategy and plans of Exelon for decommissioning Unit 1.

Other board responsibilities can include providing insight into the “potential impact” of decommissioning on the local community, educating the public on decommissioning, making recommendations to state officials, considering economic development concerns, and providing input and otherwise being involved in planning future re-use of the TMI site.

A new federal law that became effective in January tasks the NRC with examining the “best practices” of community advisory boards at decommissioning nuclear power plants. The law requires the NRC provide a report on these best practices to Congress.

The NRC does not have authority to mandate creation of community advisory boards — although the NRC does “encourage” the formation of such boards, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told the Press & Journal.

The boards “can serve as valuable conduits for information on activities at a decommissioning nuclear power plant,” Sheehan added.

According to Sheehan, it is not up to the NRC to create or establish community advisory boards. Typically, the boards are established through state legislation, but can also be established by the owner of the nuclear power plant, or by locally elected officials, Sheehan said.

Exelon in a statement provided to the Press & Journal by spokesman David Marcheskie would not commit to forming a community advisory board as part of the decommissioning of Unit 1.

However, Exelon said it plans to hold “twice-annual meetings” with “key stakeholders” identified in the statement as state, township and county officials, school leaders, and first responders.

Exelon did not say in the statement if these meetings will be open to the public.

“As we approach the shutdown of TMI Unit 1, we recognize that the community will want to remain informed and have an open line of communication with us. We always appreciate the partnership and feedback. We continue to be committed to transparent and open communication with state, township and county officials, school leaders and first responders,” Exelon said in the statement.

Most decommissioned nuclear plants around the country have had a community advisory board “in one form or another,” said Matthew Wald, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which advocates on behalf of the nuclear industry.

The boards have typically been set up by the owner of the reactor, or by local governments or some combination thereof, Wald said.

In 2014, the Vermont Legislature established the 19-member Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel as part of decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which was closed in 2014.

The panel replaced a seven-member state advisory panel that had been in place since 2002, when the Vermont Yankee plant was sold to its now-former owner, Entergy.

The expanded panel created in 2014 as part of the decommissioning includes six citizens who are appointed by the Vermont governor and by the state Senate and state House.

Information about the panel, its activities and its meetings, are posted online.

In March, the NRC put out a press release seeking input on where to hold a series of public meetings throughout the country as part of the NRC’s mandated evaluation of community advisory board best practices nationwide.

The NRC received requests for meetings from all over the country, from decommissioning community advisory boards, elected officials, and from the public, Sheehan told the Press & Journal.

Based on this input, the NRC is holding 11 such meetings nationwide, from Aug. 21 through Oct. 10.

However, this area and Three Mile Island are not among the locations. Sheehan said that according to NRC staff, the NRC did not receive any requests for a public meeting on decommissioning community advisory board best practices in the area of TMI.

Eric Epstein, chairman of the watchdog group TMI Alert, said in an Aug. 22 email to the NRC provided to the Press & Journal that TMI Alert had requested a meeting, but that the NRC had denied the request.

Justin Poole of the NRC had told Epstein in an earlier email that no meeting had been scheduled for TMI, because no request for such a meeting had been received by the NRC.

Epstein in his response to Poole said that the NRC did not do enough to make the public aware of the agency’s intent to hold the meetings.

“Perhaps the NRC should consider reaching out to reactor communities, rather than relying on a federal posting that few people read or view,” Epstein said in his email to Poole.

Sheehan pointed out that the NRC held a webinar to kick off the meetings, and that Epstein was among participants.

Information about the meetings being held by the NRC can be found by going to https://www.nrc.gov/waste/decommissioning/neima-section-108.html#public.