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Rancho Seco meeting has few listeners

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Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 10:00 pm

Two agencies overseeing Rancho Seco's decommissioning process scheduled a community forum in Galt, but Galt residents were a scarce commodity Tuesday night.

Officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District informed about 30 people at Chabolla Community Center about short- and long-term plans to decommission Rancho Seco, the former nuclear power plant about 15 miles northeast of Galt.

The turnout was dominated by out-of-towners, professionals in the field and dignitaries like former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. Even a Galt resident who addressed SMUD and NRC officials turned out to be a retired Nuclear Regulatory Commission employee.

SMUD and federal officials discussed plans to transfer 464,000 gallons of fuel stored in a pool at Rancho Seco to a dry storage area less than a quarter-mile away in August.

The fuel will be placed in metal canisters filled with helium to prevent contamination, said Steve Redeger, Rancho Seco's plant manager.

By 2013, Nuclear Energy Commission officials hope to transfer the Rancho Seco fuel to a permanent storage site. U.S. Department of Agency officials say they want to transport the fuel to Yucca Mountain, Nev., but concerns by southern Nevada residents have stalled Yucca Mountain's selection as a storage site.

Rancho Seco, located on Twin Cities Road between Herald and Ione, provided electricity to Sacramento County from 1974 until 1989 when voters, concerned about nuclear power, asked that the plant be shut down.

"Rancho Seco has had an excellent safety record during its decommission," said Blair Spitzberg, fuel cycle and decommissioning chief for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Redeger said Rancho Seco's two cooling towers - the plant's landmark - will be removed someday when it is economically feasible.

"We got an offer from a movie company to blow them up," Redeger said.

SMUD turned down the offer because the towers are located too close to the fuel and because the movie company wasn't willing to clean up the rubble, he said.

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