Lee Bidgood, Jr.: Keep Levy County nuclear-free


Members of the group SURF (Sustainable Urban and Rural Florida) protest Progress Energy's proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County, during a demonstration in Gainesville, Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

File photo
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.

The Florida Progress nuclear power plant proposed for Levy County would wipe out 765 acres of wetlands according to the Corps of Engineers, an agency not noted for exaggerating environmental impacts. That is only one bad feature of the proposed plant.

Wetlands preservation was my first environmental issue. In 1980, my wife and I bought a comfortable house along a dredged tidal creek facing a huge marsh across the creek. Interesting birds visited the area and once a mother manatee and calf nosed up the opposite bank to nibble tender plants.

I anticipated fishing and crabbing with children and grandchildren in our New Smyrna Beach backyard. Then developers proposed building a large residential community in the placid marsh across the creek. I soon learned that tidal marshes are essential nurseries for fish, crabs and other creatures. Freshwater swamps with similar functions retain and filter groundwater, replenishing important aquifers.

Neighbors opposed the tidal marsh development, but lacking a neighborhood association, I joined an environmental organization. Thus began my environmental activism and concerns about future generations.

Progress Energy’s proposed Levy County nuclear plant is dangerous and expensive.

All nuclear power plants emit radioactivity, usually "within limits." Gradually tightened limits still allow harmful emissions. Virtually all independent nuclear physicians and scientists agree there is no safe radiation dose, and all radiation exposure is cumulative.

In 1956 Alice Stewart, a British physician found that one x-ray of a pregnant woman to learn the unborn child’s sex doubled her baby’s chances of developing childhood leukemia. The outraged medical profession disputed Dr. Stewart’s findings for 20 years before accepting her conclusions.

Nuclear power profiteers denied for 20 years Dr. Stewart’s later findings that workers at the Hanford uranium processing center suffered increased cancer rates; since confirmed.

In 2006 the National Academy of Sciences reported that radiation exposure causes 50 percent more cancers in women than in men. The report agreed there is no safe radiation dose.

Over 40 studies have found clusters of childhood leukemia near nuclear plants. A German study by an organization not opposed to nuclear power was very persuasive. Germany is phasing out its 16 nuclear plants.

As reported in the Sun, federal agencies conducted a Jan. 12 hearing for citizens’ comments on the proposed Levy County nuclear plant. Those favoring the plant generally talked about jobs and how Progress Energy management is friendly and environmentally concerned.

Opponents emphasized the project’s damage to drinking water, wetlands and public health plus risks from a major hurricane and reported how Progress Energy management botched repairing their Crystal River plant.

Brackish cooling water withdrawn from the defunct Cross Florida Barge Canal may become too warm for essential reactor cooling. France has incurred repeated nuclear plant shutdowns when cooling water became too warm.

Nuclear plants receive praise for low carbon emissions helping to restrain global warming. The reverse is true initially. Preparing the site, building the plant and mining, transporting and refining uranium fuel require copious fossil fuel energy. A new nuke must operate about 20 years to pay off its start-up “energy debt”. It burdens future generations with more lethal waste that remains toxic practically forever.

The Levy County plant would be extremely costly. Its site is partially underwater about half the year, requiring dirt from somewhere to elevate the site eight feet and build a high dirt berm around it. Whether that would prevent a Daichi-like calamity if a category 5 hurricane hits at high tide is questionable.

We shouldn’t gamble on this Levy County nuclear project. The $22 billion of mainly rate-payer and taxpayer dollars could fund more than a half million Florida rooftop or other small solar installations and create far more jobs than a nuclear plant.

The Sunshine State should follow Gainesville’s example. Our city leads this nation in kilowatt hours of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity per person.

Let’s go solar!

Lee Bidgood, Jr.,

Gainesville

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