File photo of a sign displayed at a protest outside the Palisades Nuclear Plant near South Haven in 2013 | CREDIT WMUK

A state lawmaker says communities should have a voice in the process of decommissioning nuclear power plants. State Representative Jon Hoadley has introduced a bill that would create a new “Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.”

“What this panel would do is make sure that we’re putting community voices, workers’ voices who are in the plant, folks who live in the community, and of course environmental and scientific experts, in the room helping to advise and guide what the decommissioning process would look like.”

Hoadley says the panel would not be able to stop a plant from being decommissioned. That’s up to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. But he says it could give valuable input on the process.

“My hope is that that would then have a major impact as we look at permits and, of course, be able to connect with state infrastructure, to make sure that the voices of the folks who’re going to be impacted by these decisions are being heard, trusted, and followed.”

Hoadley says the advisory group should also have input on how radioactive waste from decommissioned plants is handled.

A 2009 file photo of “dry casks” storing waste at a nuclear plant in Vermont that are similar to those at the Palisades plant near South Haven | CREDIT TOBY TALBOT / AP PHOTO

“If they were going to store materials on site, then what does the protection look like? Who’s doing the storage? What company, and the credibility of those companies, will be be involved? I think that is a great example of why we need more folks at the table who’ll be impacted by the choices.”

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups say storage of high-level waste from the Palisades plant near South Haven is a serious problem. It’s scheduled to close in 2022. The waste is in concrete containers near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Hoadley’s bill is now in a State House committee. It’s unclear where it will go from there. Hoadley says no one in the Republican majority has signed on as a cosponsor so far.

By Andrew Robins