Fulton Residents Divided Over Renewing License of Nuclear Plant

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FULTON - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) met with Fulton residents Wednesday to discuss renewing the license of the Callaway plant, the state's only nuclear power plant. St. Louis-based Ameren's license currently expires on Oct. 18, 2024, but the power company wants to renew it until 2044. Ameren considers the plant valuable because it can run almost continuously between refueling, and because the utility faces pressure to clean up other plants that burn coal. The company submitted the application for the renewal of its facility operating license on December 19, 2011.

Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey has worked to get rid of the plant for more than thirty years. 

"I do not like nuclear power, and I don't believe there's any safe place for the radioactive waste," Drey said. "Now that we've seen what's going on in Japan, I think it should be clear to everyone that this is a very dangerous technology." 

Ed Smith, Safe Energy Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, agrees, saying the NRC postponed the implementation of a number of the Fukushima Task Force recommendations for safety and environmental protection until some undetermined future date. Smith voiced some of his other concerns as well. 

"Just recently, a former nuclear engineer from the Callaway plant testified in front of the NRC about a lack of responsible safety culture and managing of the plant," Smith said. "It took the Earth two and a half billion years to rid itself of radiation so life could exist, and we're going ahead and creating longlife radioactive waste, for 40 to 60 years of fleeting electricity use."

"I'm very concerned about the workers, about the exposure to radiotion that they experience," Drey said. "I'm concerned about the neighbors who live nearby. I don't like the fact that when the nuclear power plant is operating, it releases radioactive water the Missouri river, which we drink in St. Louis."

But not everyone at the meeting felt uneasy about the presence of the nuclear plant.

"The citizens of Fulton like the Ameren plant where it is," said Fulton City Administrator Bill Johnson. "We like the operation, we like the staffing, we like the safety levels. We are incredibly involved in the safety review. If anyone's concerned about the safety records, the records are available online."

"Ameren Missouri has a history of being very responsive whenever an issue has been raised," Holts Summit Alderperson Pam Murray said. "Past behavior and responsiveness is a good predictor of future behavior."

The public now has 60 days to review the 1200-page license renewal application and 400-page environmental report and voice any concerns. Ed Smith, Safe Energy Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment said it's unreasonable to require the public to comment on such technical documents within that time. Smith said he suggests extending the deadline to 90 days.

Nuclear plant relicensing usually takes 22 to 30 months.