Nuke plant opponents speak out
Published: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 6:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2012 at 10:33 p.m.
CRYSTAL RIVER — For three hours on Thursday, opponents of a proposed Levy County nuclear plant told the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board the facility would siphon too much water from the aquifer, cause saltwater intrusion and expose people to deadly radiation.
Hearing the complaints was a three-judge panel from the board, which falls under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and acts as its judicial arm. The meeting for public input was the result of three environmental groups — the Nuclear Information and Resources Service, the Ecology Party of Florida and the Green Party of Florida — challenging Progress Energy's application to build the plant.
The three petitioners said in their complaint that the NRC, in its draft environmental impact study, and Progress Energy, in its environmental impact report, did not accurately predict the impact the nuclear plant would have on area wetlands, floodplains and groundwater.
NRC's final environmental impact report is scheduled for release in April, and a formal trial on the complaints could be this October.
"This … is the wrong plant in the wrong place, paid for in the wrong way," said Teddi Rusnak, president of the Citrus County Council, a nonprofit consortium of civic clubs, homeowners associations and environmental groups. "It … will (do) irreversible damage to the springs, wetlands and wildlife."
The plant would include two 1,100-megwatt Westinghouse reactors, each capable of generating enough power for nearly 900,000 homes. The project's cost is estimated at $22 billion.
The plant would pump as much as 130 million gallons of salt water a day from the Cross Florida Barge Canal for cooling. It would also be allowed to withdraw more than 5 million gallons of fresh water per day from the aquifer for its operations.
"This project would take Florida back 100 years, when we viewed wetlands as worthless … until drained or filled," said 90-year-old Lee Bidgood.
The proposed plant site includes 722 acres of wetlands.
Although the hearing was supposed to focus on the issues named in the legal objections, many in the crowd, such as Bidgood, expressed fears about radiation leaks and damage to the plant in case of hurricanes.
"We could be just as unlucky as Japan," Bidgood said, citing that country's nuclear catastrophe last year at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Progress Energy's environmental report has said such dire predictions are unfounded.
The company expects to collect $680 million through 2012 from its customers to pay for work done so far in preparation of construction. The money includes collections that began in 2009.
Some attending the meeting, namely business owners and local elected officials, supported the proposed plant.
Levy County Commission Chairman Danny Stevens said the plant would have a positive economic impact on his county.
"Yes, it (the proposed plant) has its dangers, but so does everything," he said.
Contact Fred Hiers at 867-4157.