News Story

Stabenow Slams Plan To Store Nuclear Waste Near Michigan, Earlier Opposed Remote Site

Voted no on considering plan for storing Michigan’s spent nuclear fuel in Nevada facility

Sen. Debbie Stabenow tweeted Feb. 16 that Canada’s plan to place a spent nuclear fuel waste facility near the Great Lakes is dangerous and makes no sense. But Stabenow voted no in 2002 on advancing a plan to remove radioactive spent nuclear fuel from U.S. nuclear plants, including those on the Great Lakes. The bill would have moved nuclear waste to a permanent underground storage site in Nevada. Before that vote, Stabenow had said she would support the move.

In 2002, then-Gov. John Engler issued a statement asking Stabenow to stick by her word and support moving the waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. Engler noted that after the U.S. secretary of energy recommended the site, the move got a favorable vote in the U.S. House of Representatives (306-11) supported by 13 members of Michigan’s congressional delegation.

In the Senate, Michigan’s other Democratic senator, Carl Levin, voted to advance the proposal. Engler noted that Stabenow had previously sent a letter to the vice-chair of the Michigan House Energy Committee declaring her support for the repository and calling it the “most viable alternative for safely storing nuclear waste.”

Canada and the United States are in a dispute over a site proposed to permanently house Canada’s spent nuclear fuel. The material would be placed in a storage facility 1,650 feet below ground near Lake Huron, according to Power magazine, at Huron-Kinloss/South Bruce in Bruce County, Ontario. The site is across Lake Huron from the Michigan Thumb area. There are worries that the waste could leak into the Great Lakes and affect up to 40 million Americans.

While Stabenow tweets her opposition to Canada’s proposed site, the U.S. stores spent nuclear fuel on the shores of four of the five Great Lakes, according to a 2018 story in the Detroit Free Press. In the 20 years since Stabenow voted no on Yucca Mountain, spent nuclear fuel waste has remained stored near the Great Lakes.

Nuclear power is considered by some to be a safe and clean source of energy which creates no air pollution or carbon dioxide. It currently produces 26% of Michigan’s electricity, according to Jason Hayes, environmental policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The state currently has four nuclear reactors operating at three generation plants.

Stabenow did not respond when asked if she supports nuclear energy or if she will work to find an alternative site for storing nuclear energy waste and work to remove it from the shores of the Great Lakes.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.