FULTON — About 200 people gathered Wednesday at Westminster College for a conversation on the potential environmental and economic impact of a second nuclear plant in Callaway County.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission held the meeting as part of its review of AmerenUE’s application for permission to build the plant. The commission’s intent was to allow the public to call attention to any issues it might want to consider.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will continue accepting written comment on AmerenUE's application for permission to build a second nuclear plant in Callaway County. To learn how to submit those comments go to nrc.gov/public-involve/doc-comment.html.
Also, readers of The Watchword, the Missourian's public life blog, can vote on whether they would favor any form of partnership between the city of Columbia and AmerenUE on the nuclear plant. To participate in the poll, go to thewatchword.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/what-about-nuclear/.
Concerns at the hearing was divided among those who look forward to the economic boost that construction and operation of a second nuclear plant would bring, while others argued the environmental risks aren’t worth it. Still others said nuclear technology is among the safest and cleanest ways to produce electricity.
Several mid-Missouri residents and representatives of interest groups spoke in favor of the plant because of its economic impact.
Nancy Lewis, executive director of the Callaway County Chamber of Commerce, read a letter from the chamber expressing support for the second plant. Chamber members, the letter said, believe every business in Callaway County would benefit from the plant’s construction.
Elaine Babor of Chamois said she can see the benefits of the plant to much of mid-Missouri. But Chamois, she said, is left out of the loop because it’s on the south side of the Missouri River, and there are no nearby bridges into Callaway County. Nevertheless, Chamois is within the area that would be evacuated if there were ever any problems with radioactivity escaping the nuclear plant.
"(Chamois) inherited the danger of the plant but no benefit," Babor said.
Some speakers at the hearing said they worry about the waste generated by nuclear plants. Specifically, they wondered about the plant's capacity to store its own nuclear waste and about the process for decommissioning the plant..
Mark Haim of Missourians for Safe Energy asked the commission to consider the cost and issues associated with decommissioning a second nuclear plant when it becomes obsolete. He said because the plant will retain some radioactivity, decommissioning will be a dangerous task for future generations.
"This is all something that will happen when the people making the decisions have all left the stage," Haim said. "Is there any guarantee that the money will be there to complete this task, workers willing to do that and a place to store the materials?"
Kathleen Logan Smith, executive director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, asked the commission to examine whether the plant might contaminate local waterways.
While many of those in attendance openly worried about the plant’s environmental impact, Genevieve Lumbdey praised nuclear energy for its lack of carbon emissions.
Environmental and economic issues dominated the conversation, but some of those who attended the hearing hoped to get answers to different questions.
"We live right in the backyard of it, and there isn't a whole lot of information," Cheryl Livengood said. "I'd just like to know when and if they do it."
Livengood wondered whether any new roads will be built in the area and how an influx of construction workers might affect the area. She recalled problems when the first Callaway plant was built more than 20 years ago. Schools became more crowded when workers brought their children to the area and crime increased, Livengood said.
"Any time you get a bunch of construction workers in one pile away from home, there is going to be some rowdiness going around," Livengood said.
The commission's public affairs officer Victor Dricks said overall he was happy with the turnout.
"I think we had a very good diversity of views," Dricks said.