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FL Green Party challenges Nuclear Reactors

Three Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners have upheld the July 2009 ruling by a panel of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) that is hearing a challenge to two new Progress Energy Florida (PEF) nuclear reactors in Levy County, Florida. Three organizations, the Ecology Party of Florida, Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Green Party of Florida are representing the interests of members living within a 50 mile radius of the proposed new nuclear site, located in the Florida Nature Coast less than 10 miles from the existing PEF Crystal River Nuclear Power Station. The Levy County reactors are projected to cost $17 billion.

The landmark ruling, handed down on Thursday, January 7 in response to an appeal by PEF, affirms that the ASLB will hear very broad concerns raised by the Intervening groups, including impacts of a new nuclear plant on ground and surface waters, endangered species, and environmental and safety issues of generating so-called “low-level” radioactive waste that currently has no off-site disposal option.  

“The Environment Report submitted by Progress in its application is completely inadequate,” said Gary Hecker, Treasurer of the Ecology Party and co-author of the legal submissions on the environmental issues. “Progress has a legal responsibility to investigate completely and report the impacts of this project on the land and water of the region. With this ruling on our Contention (the most comprehensive environmental contention admitted thus far in current NRC proceedings) the NRC is allowing us to draw attention to the deficiencies in the Progress Energy application. We hope this will also augur well for other groups’ efforts.”

Yet the NRC ruling did limit some contentions from further hearing.

“It is good news that the Commission supports litigation on waste that will be produced if this new atomic power site goes forward; however the decision makes the most concentrated portion of this waste stream – known as ‘Greater than Class C’ – an orphan,” said Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, an expert working with NIRS on the intervention. “This waste includes highly radioactive metal from components that are replaced during operation, or at the point of decommissioning of the reactor. The new decision means that PEF is not required to provide a plan for Greater Than Class C waste. Current federal regulations make this waste the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), but since the DOE didn’t include it in the license application for Yucca Mountain, the proposed repository in Nevada, the Commissioners have left it homeless,” concluded Resnikoff who is the principal at Radioactive Waste Management Associates in New York City.

“More than 50 years after the first nuclear power reactor began operating in the US there is still no proven way to isolate the radioactive waste because some of it will still be dangerous in a million years.  Wherever the waste – of any class-high or low, A, B, C or Greater than C – ends up will be a sacrifice area and the Florida Nature Coast is being sacrificed. The best plan is simply to not make it in the first place,” said Diane D’Arrigo, Director of the Radioactive Waste Project at Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Mary Olson, of NIRS from its Southeast Office, is coordinating the pro se legal prosecution of these issues and is satisfied by the ruling. “It’s exciting – it’s been 35 years since the nuclear industry tried to site and build new reactors. These new facilities are still not clean, they are not safe, and building a huge radioactive facility on top of the recharge area for some of the most pristine freshwater springs on the planet is wrong,” said Olson.

The hearing on the PEF license application will proceed with development of expert testimony, the publication of federal documents on safety and environment and then in 2011 or 2012, a hearing that will be conducted by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

The full petition to intervene (filed in February 2009) and key legal rulings are posted at:

http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/levy/levyhome.htm

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