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The Green Party of Florida and two other groups learned Wednesday that their challenges to Progress Energy Florida’s plans to build two nuclear power reactors in Levy County have standing with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and their petition to intervene has been granted.
The move could represent another setback to the utility. In May, it announced construction work on the $17 billion project would be delayed by at least 20 months when the NRC refused to give the utility limited work authorization for excavation and foundation preparation work.
The latest obstacle arises from a 112-page ruling from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board of the NRC, responding to the challenge of the utility’s combined license application for Levy County Power Plant Units 1 and 2 from the Green Party of Florida, the Ecology Party of Florida and Nuclear Information and Resource Service. The board found that the petitioners raised three admissible contentions to the license that would require legal hearings.
The contentions involve environmental and safety issues. In one, the board said the utility’s environmental report failed to address the impacts to wetlands, floodplains, special aquatic sites and other waters of the construction itself. If the project requires filling in wetlands, called dewatering, it would represent a risk to the underlying Floridan aquifer system, the Withlacoochee and Waccasassa rivers and harm water quality and wildlife and lead to destructive wildfires, the board said.
The board also supported the contention that the application was inadequate because the environmental report did not identify impacts from salt drift and salt deposition when the cooling towers that use salt water are situated in an inland, freshwater wetland area.
The salt drift issue had been brought up in February at a public testimony session in Inglis by Beth Foley, a retired teacher from Chiefland.
“The droplets will spread 31 pounds a day of solid salt over the wetlands,” she said.
A third contention is that the utility’s application is inadequate because its environmental report and its safety analysis reports assume that the plant’s radioactive waste will be shipped offsite within two years and does not explain where it will be stored if it has to be kept on site.
The utility said it would consider its next move.
“Progress Energy Florida has received and will review the ruling,” said Tim Leljedal, spokesman for Progress Energy Florida. “We’ll soon make a decision on whether to file an appeal.”