Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina to Run for Four More Decades

Last week, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a new license that would allow Westinghouse Nuclear to keep running for an additional four decades. Environmental groups had fought against this, asking that federal officials at least limit the license to 20 years if it couldn’t be rejected. They based their argument on various environmental and safety issues that have plagued the facility since 1980.

These problems include pollution of groundwater near the factory, uranium build-up in an air pollution control device and nuclear material leaking through the floor of the plant, which is located in South Carolina.

Despite the sound argument, the federal officials allowed the plant, which was built more than 50 years ago, to continue manufacturing atomic fuel rods until 2062. The plant is one of the trio in America that still manufacture fuel for nuclear plants.

The federal agency quoted a recently conducted study, which stated that only moderate environmental impacts could be caused by the factory over the next four decades. Tom Clements, an environmental activist, stated that these environmental studies didn’t leave critics of the factory feeling better about its potential impact on the environment. In a newspaper interview, Clements stated that the agency’s decision was no surprise because they had totally ignored public concerns and all the events that had taken place in the past, which made it seem like this was a done deal.

Over the last four decades, Westinghouse has been ordered to pay small fines on a number of occasions, including a $24,000 fine that was imposed after ash in the factory’s incinerator exceeded its uranium limit. Earlier in 2018, an acid solution burned a hole through the plant’s floor, which allowed uranium to contaminate the surrounding soil. The company cleaned up the area.

Environmentalist also highlighted that Westinghouse hadn’t done enough to ensure that dangerous materials didn’t seep into groundwater around the factory.

However, this sentiment is not shared by state officials, who noted that extensive tests and reviews by three independent companies and their researchers left them confident that the plant wasn’t an environmental threat. In a statement, the CEO and president of Westinghouse, Patrick Fragman, stated that the plant played a crucial role in fueling the operating nuclear fleet globally while also assuring America’s energy independence. He added that safety was the company’s top priority as it continued to make nuclear fuel over the next four decades.

The Westinghouse plant located in South Carolina has almost 1,000 workers. The company has other facilities in Richland, Washington, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

The controversy surrounding nuclear energy plants looks set to remain heated in just the same way that different jurisdictions can’t seem to make up their minds about the use of coal produced by mining companies such as Warrior Met Coal Inc. (NYSE: HCC) to meet the current and future energy needs of the globe.

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