Crystal River residents voice concern over plant closure plan

6:32 PM, Feb 5, 2013   |    comments
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Crystal River, FL -- The decision to close the nuclear power plant at Crystal River -- also known as CR3 -- immediately drew concern from people living nearby about their safety.

Under the plan, the nuclear material that's already been on site for several years will likely remain here for many more, say officials.

That's not exactly what some residents wanted to hear.

"I don't feel too good about it," said Pat McAteer, who lives so close to the Crystal River nuclear plant that her neighborhood is dotted with warning towers, just in case something ever goes wrong.

News that they plan to shutter the plant has her and others here "concerned about being so close to it and what could happen," she said.

McAteer says she's worried about the environmental impact too.

Since going off-line in late 2009, the nuclear rods that once powered the plant have been kept in a cooling pool, and there they'll stay, say officials, for the foreseeable future.

After five years underwater, they'll be removed and placed in dry storage, encased in thick-walled casks which will remain on the property for 40 to 60 years.

McAteer says that's too long.

"Remove it completely, not just have it sit there," she said.

"Safety is our number one priority," said Duke Energy Spokesman Mike Hughes. 

Hughes says the site is by no means being abandoned. He says eventually about 200 workers will handle the decommission and decontamination process. Then a handful will maintain it.

"We will have environmental monitoring, we will have security. We will have a very definitive plan of how to monitor from the environmental perspective," he said.

Still, local government officials say they share the public's concern.

Such promises after cracks, or delamination as they call it, were found twice in the containment building's walls, don't exactly instill a level of confidence.

Commissioner Joe Meek, the Citrus County Commission Chair, believes the energy company will do what's required, but "it is concerning," he said. "Again, I do think though, there are mechanisms in place -- thankfully by regulatory agencies -- with regards to safety."

In fact, Progress / Duke Energy officials say the nuclear fuel rods housed on-site will not be stored in the damaged part of the plant, but rather in a separate area.

That's not yet comforting for Pat McAteer.

"I don't think that's very much assurance. They can say all they want, but I don't think that can ensure everybody that that's what is gonna happen and be safe," she said.

Eventually the nuclear material will be moved to a U.S. government storage facility, say Progress Energy officials.

But the exact location and time frame for that have yet to be determined.

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