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Hearing set for challenge on two nuclear reactors

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 PAT FAHERTY

Special to the Beacon

    It is all about water.

That is how Cara Campbell, Ecology Party chair, described the upcoming hearing on the proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County.

On Oct. 31, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will hold an evidentiary hearing on a challenge to the application for two nuclear power reactors.

The board is an independent, three judge panel selected by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review contentions to applications for nuclear reactors.

The hearing will be held in Bronson, though Campbell said the Ecology Party, an intervener in the case, tried unsuccessfully to have it moved to Citrus County.

“We do not believe the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) is adequate,” said Campbell. “It underestimates the impact of water use and the destruction of wetlands.”

The hearing will focus on the contention by the Ecology Party of Florida and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an international organization with more than 30 years of experience in raising issues about nuclear power.

According to the Notice of Hearing, the contention includes; impacts to wetlands, impacts to the Florida aquifer system, impacts on outstanding Florida waters, on water quality and other environmental impacts.

The interveners allege that Progress Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff failed to adequately analyze and discuss the environmental impacts of the proposed reactors on wetlands, floodplains, special aquatic sites and other waters associated with the site. 

Progress Energy and the NRC staff deny these allegations.

The hearing is expected to be completed in two days. The public is invited to observe, but participation will be limited to the parties involved, their lawyers and witnesses. No signs will be permitted in the courtroom.

The board previously conducted two sessions for public input last January in Citrus County regarding the same contention.

“Nuclear Information Resource has been fighting this thing, I hope people wake up and realize what’s going on,” said Campbell. “It will take 5.8 million gallons a day from their aquifer.”

According to Progress Energy Florida spokesperson Suzanne Grant, the only intervener issue the board is reviewing relates to use of ground water and salt water drift. The board is expected to issue its decision in the weeks following the hearing.

“We believe that, through its continued efforts to identify and mitigate any potential environmental impacts, the company has adequately addressed the contentions raised in the ASLB proceeding,” said Grant. “In addressing these contentions, the company is maintaining the viability of a project critical to the local community.” 

Grant said the nuclear project plan is designed to meet all regulatory requirements, resulting in significant benefits to Florida’s environment while being as cost-effective as possible.