Durbin changes opinion about nuclear plant
Paducah Sun
April 12, 2007

METROPOLIS, Ill. – U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has withdrawn his support of efforts to lure a nuclear waste recycling facility in Paducah, Ky., saying that he now has concerns about safety.

Durbin, D-Ill., revealed the change of position in a letter read Tuesday night at a public information meeting in Metropolis, across the Ohio River from Paducah, one of 11 sites under consideration for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership reprocessing facility.

The meeting was sponsored by a Paducah-based task force that is pushing for support for the project.

“Until we have a greater assurance regarding the feasibility of the available technologies and the safeguards that will protect our safety and security, I am withholding judgment on whether a large reprocessing plant should be built at this time,” Durbin said in the April 5 letter.

Officials of the Paducah-based task force were surprised at Durbin’s comments but declined to make a public comment. They did, however, release an Oct. 24, 2006, letter in which Durbin supported the project.

“I am writing to strongly support Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s application to host … the GNEP facilities in Paducah,” he wrote then.

He said his support was based on several factors, including his long-standing effort to reduce dependence on foreign-produced fuel.

“The cultivation of domestically-produced nuclear energy as a viable alternative to foreign produced fuels has a bright future, which is why I support … the application to host fuel storage facilities in western Kentucky,” he wrote.

Durbin also noted its positive economic impact: “The employment of 2,000 highly educated professionals would bring needed dollars and economic opportunity to southern Illinois and western Kentucky.”

In the April 5 letter, he said that in recent months important questions have been raised about the safety, effectiveness and long-term consequences of existing nuclear waste reprocessing technology.

Answering those questions in a positive manner is more important than the “promise and progress” it would bring nearby communities, he wrote.

The letter went on to say studies that are underway are not designed to give assurances of the long-term safety. “Our nation’s track record for protecting host communities from environmental degradation is not encouraging,” he wrote.

Joe Shoemaker, Durbin’s press spokesman, didn’t have an immediate comment on Durbin’s letters.