SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

State Regulators Approve Massive Water Withdrawal Permit from the Savannah River for Water-Guzzling New Vogtle Nuclear Reactors


Concerns from citizens, organizations disregarded

Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, 865.235.1448,

Atlanta, Ga. (December 10, 2014) ///PRESS RELEASE/// The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has approved the issuance of a massive surface water withdrawal permit from the imperiled Savannah River for new nuclear reactors under construction at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Georgia. Despite receiving over 250 public comments on the draft permit that documented the serious concerns of Georgia’s and South Carolina’s upstream and downstream residents, communities and businesses that rely on the river, EPD failed to make any significant changes from the draft permit.

According to the agency, only a few actually supported issuance of the permit. The majority of the comments (at least 243 out of 250): “requested that the permit be denied or delayed for a number of reasons including: the withdrawal amount was excessive, additional studies should be conducted prior to any consideration of issuing the permit, better planning should be required, impact of future climate change was inadequately addressed, the water withdrawal and NPDES permits should be reconsidered jointly, there were inadequate water conservation and drought plans, and others.” Despite these concerns, EPD charged ahead.

The reactors, which Georgia Power expects to operate for 60 or more years, are now approved to withdraw up to 74 million gallons of water per day (gpd) from the river. This would be in addition to the 127 million gpd of water that the existing two reactors are already permitted to withdraw. Together this represents much larger withdrawals than the cities of Savannah and Augusta use combined. The consumptive loss, water that is never returned, will be significant, with tens of millions of gallons lost per day. EPD has acknowledged a worst-case scenario of consumptive losses up to 88% for the new reactors.

“We are extremely disappointed that the extensive legal and technical comments we submitted with our partners, Savannah Riverkeeper, Southern Environmental Law Center and Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic were not remotely taken to heart by EPD,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “There was no urgency for this permit to be issued given the commercial operation dates for these reactors is several years off. The over budget $15.5 billion project has been delayed until at least 2018 for the first reactor. For EPD to rush this through when there are so many serious outstanding issues facing the Savannah River is a mistake. Safeguarding the long-term health of the Savannah River, upon which communities, businesses and two states’ economies rely should take precedence over meeting the desires of a big power company.”

For information on the surface water withdrawal permit, visit and access the Georgia Water Coalition’s 2014 Dirty Dozen report, which for the third year in a row selected the expansion at Plant Vogtle’s impacts on the Savannah River.

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