Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt, a Republican, in who's district lives the Piketon Gaseous Diffusion Plant is no stranger to nuclear issues. She also knows the plant is a candidate for one or more Department of Energy (DOE) fuel reprocessing facilities under the nascent Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Which is why it is interesting that this week Schmidt introduced legislation that puts severe limits on what DOE can do at Piketon with its GNEP program.
Schmidt introduced the Nuclear Waste Storage Prohibition Act that if enacted into law would prevent the government from using any GNEP money to create a permanent storage facility for spent nuclear fuel or high level radioactive waste at Piketon. Schmidt has plenty of political reasons to introduce the bill. She got major league heat in the last election from her opponent over support for GNEP.
Democrat Victoria Wulsin leveled the charge that Schmidt's support to make Piketon a GNEP plant would turn the facility into a permanent nuclear dump and that once spent fuel was shipped there it would never leave, or at least not in the lifetime of any of Schmidt's constituents. What's more Wulsin is going after Schmidt's seat again in 2008 having lost by just 2,500 votes in 2006.
Schmidt is no dummy. To spike Wulsin's charge, Schmidt got two Ohio Democrats to co-sponsor her bill. They are Rep. Zack Space and Rep. Charlie Wilson. All three are all in favor of getting a GNEP plant, or two, at Piketon. They just want to make sure that when nuclear garbage comes in, it also goes out. A local economic development group got $674,000 from DOE to do a site study for the Piketon plant. The group submitted it to DOE on May 1st along with 10 other groups seeking GNEP plants at 13 sites.
The way it looks now Schmidt has got the best of both worlds. She's fired a rhetorical shot across DOE's bow about not making Piketon a nuclear dump and she gets to keep supporting the place as a GNEP site and all the jobs it might bring if it ever gets funded.