Foes: Environmental analysis of proposed nuke plant flawed
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 4:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 6:48 p.m.
Opponents of a proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County raised more concerns about the environmental impacts of the project Thursday during the second and final day of hearings conducted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“They're basically saying they have no idea when and where the impacts will occur and they won't know until they turn it on,” said Diane Curran, the opponents' lawyer. “Our point is, if you don't know now, how will you know 10 years from now?”
The opponents, comprised primarily of the Ecology Party of Florida and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, challenged the NRC's final environmental impact statement on the building of the plant, which stated that environmental impacts to the area would be minimal.
Holes in the NRC's evaluation came up during the testimonies. NRC witnesses admitted to not having data on whether there might be “preferential pathways” for water flow deep underground in the area where wells would be constructed. These are paths of least resistance for water flow that makes water flow unpredictable in karst geological conditions. That wouldn't be known until certification, the witnesses said — in other words, after Progress Energy would be given the go-ahead to build the plant.
The opponents also said that the models the NRC used, largely based on mathematical modeling, weren't appropriate for the real-world conditions at the site and didn't take into account that the proposed site is a wetlands area roughly 10 miles northeast of Progress Energy's nuclear power plant in Crystal River, which has been offline since 2009.
“It seems to me they made the model fit the answers that they wanted,” Curran said. “What's coming out of here is that there's poor evidence for having little environmental impact.”
Despite these allegations and two days of intense scrutiny of the proposed plant, Progress Energy isn't backing down.
“From our perspective this is just part of the regulatory process,” said Jason Walls, a spokesman on behalf of Progress Energy. “We continue to believe that the analysis of the NRC is adequate and any environmental impacts would be minimal.”
The judges overseeing the hearing, who are from the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, will now review the two days of testimony and vote on whether the NRC's final review complies with the National Environmental Policy Act. That should take place in February or March, said Joey Ledford, an NRC spokesman.
If the judges find that the final review does comply, Progress Energy should be allowed to proceed with its application, Ledford said. Progress Energy can also appeal a negative decision.