Barbour backs nuclear storage

From The Clarion-Ledger: Mississippi should study the idea of storing and reprocessing the nation’s nuclear waste but shouldn’t try to do it until it has the right geological formation, logistics, facility and technology in place, former Gov. Haley Barbour says.

Photo: Former Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday that he supports nuclear storage and reprocessing in Mississippi. Barbour was a champion of the energy industry while in office. In this July 6, 2012 photograph, Barbour, then no longer in office, and GreenTech Automotive chairman Terry McAuliffe, left, confer prior to the company’s unveiling of the new electric MyCar at their manufacturing facility in Horn Lake. / Rogelio V. Solis/AP

“My position is that we ought to look at it,” Barbour said Tuesday after speaking to about 200 people at the Madison County Business League luncheon in Ridgeland. “We already store nuclear fuel in Mississippi. We have stored it 20-some years. We have stored it under minimum security at Grand Gulf, and the people who are at Grand Gulf want another nuclear power plant. They want more to store.”

“The risk is virtually zero,” Barbour said of the danger of storing nuclear fuel.

Barbour said he applauds the energy trade group Mississippi Energy Institute for wanting the state to look into the possibility of storing nuclear fuel.

But Barbour said the state is a long way from having the things in place to support doing so.

Last month, the Mississippi Energy Institute made a presentation to the state Senate Economic Development Committee, saying the state could reap thousands of new jobs and billions in investments from storing and reprocessing the nation’s nuclear waste.

MEI President Patrick Sullivan and others say today’s technology allows for safe storage and transportation of radioactive waste, and that emerging technology such as is used in France would allow it to be reused for medical and other industries. Sullivan said the nuclear waste could be brought in by rail or by barges on the Mississippi River, and that Mississippi would rake in some of the $750 million a year tacked on to power bills for nuclear disposal if it takes in other states’ waste.

Barbour also touted non-specific areas along the Mississippi River as ideal locations to store spent nuclear fuel.

But there has been vocal opposition to any plan of a possible nuclear waste storage facility in Mississippi.

One of the most vocal has been Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, who has emphatically said no nuclear waste facility in the state.

“Not now, not ever,” Palazzo said of such a facility in the state.

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said in a statement the planning behind the scenes to offer Mississippi as the nation’s nuclear waste dump is “appalling.”

“Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent, this issue crosses party lines and affects all regions of our state,” Presley said.

Barbour also said Tuesday that he believes the Kemper County power plant is a plus for the state and environment. The coal burning plant, which has been beset with cost overruns, is scheduled to open next year. The projected cost has risen from $2.4 billion to $4.8 billion.

Mississippi Power Co. officials have said the company will absorb additional cost if a 22 percent rate increase is approved for its customers.

When he was governor, Barbour signed a law allowing Mississippi Power Co. to charge higher rates to finance the Kemper plant.

Mississippi Power is a subsidiary of Southern Company, which has long been represented by BGR, the Washington lobbying firm Barbour co-founded.

Barbour acknowledged the financial link between Southern Company and BGR. He noted after the speech that he was not working for BGR while he was governor. While governor, Barbour’s assets were kept in a blind trust.

On another energy matter, Barbour said he supports limited drilling for natural gas in the Gulf off the Mississippi Coast.

Written by Jimmie E. Gates