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MONROE — DTE Energy’s Fermi 2 nuclear plant generated a strong discussion Thursday about its future for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to consider as it decides whether to extend the plant’s operating license by another 20 years.
Although a pair of meetings held by the NRC at Monroe County Community College’s La-Z-Boy Center were called to gather thoughts about potential environmental affects and safety of nuclear power, dozens of area residents expressed differing views about DTE and Fermi 2 in general.
Their thoughts ranged from DTE’s hefty contributions to fish and duck habitat in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge to millions of dollars Fermi 2 adds to the region‘s economy through its 800 jobs and property tax revenue.
The plant, in northern Monroe County, is along the Lake Erie shoreline about 30 miles north of Toledo.
“DTE isn’t just a company doing business in our community, but they are part of our community,” Monroe Mayor Bob Clark, one of about 65 people who attended the afternoon session, told the NRC.
The afternoon session lasted three hours, an hour longer than expected. More than half of those in attendance spoke.
The meetings gave the public its first chance to give statements about the application, which DTE submitted on April 30. Written comments will be accepted through Aug. 29.
The NRC said it expects the review process to last through at least the summer of 2016. A 20-year extension would allow Fermi 2 to run through March 20, 2045.
Several other public officials, plant employees, union representatives, and community boosters spoke on behalf of the plant.
“Fermi 2 employees — myself included — are active in the community. Safety is our top priority,” Emily Wood, a human resources specialist and president of the Fermi 2 chapter of the North American Young Generation in Nuclear chapter, said. She also said she is vice president of a Women in Nuclear, or WIN, chapter, and that her father has worked at the plant for 35 years.
Several residents spoke in opposition, citing concerns such as evacuation plans to parallels between Fermi 2 and three Fukushima Daiichi reactors that melted in Japan in March, 2011, after an earthquake and tsunami-induced flood in that part of the world.
Fermi 2 is one of 23 U.S. boiling-water reactors with similar Mark 1 General Electric designs.
“It would be utterly reckless and irresponsible for the NRC to relicense a reactor with a known, flawed design,” Keith Gunter, co-chairman of the Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, said.
Fermi 3 is a reactor DTE Energy is proposing to build through a separate application.
Although the NRC has suspended issuing new licenses until Congress decides how it wants the agency to manage spent nuclear fuel, the agency is continuing its review of applications. It has given 20-year extensions to more than 70 of 100 nuclear plants in the United States and rejected none.
FirstEnergy Corp. expects to hear this fall on its application for a 20-year extension at its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ottawa County, which was submitted in 2010.
Contact Tom Henry at: email@example.com or 419-724-6079.