Groups file federal appeal against Vogtle reactors

Guest Blog | October 29, 2009 | Press Releases

Atlanta, Ga.—Today organizations concerned with the high costs and environmental risks posed by Southern Company’s plan to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga. announced their filing of an appeal in federal court to stop the proposed expansion. The groups’ appeal calls upon the court to review the site permit and work authorization issued earlier this year by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the new reactors at Plant Vogtle.

In the petition for review, docketed in the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit on October 28, the groups contend that the NRC violated the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other relevant laws. The appeal states, “Petitioners seek review and reversal of the issuance of the ESP and the LWA for the Vogtle ESP site.” The appeal was filed by Emory University School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic and Diane Curran on behalf of five groups: Center for a Sustainable Coast, Savannah River Keeper, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions and Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

The NRC issued the early site permit and a limited work authorization in August. At issue is how much construction should be allowed to occur at the site before the final permit for construction and operation is issued. The NRC does not expect to issue the actual license to construct the new nuclear reactors until 2011, if even then. That license, known as a combined construction and operating license, faces several significant hurdles, including an environmental impact assessment and a safety analysis. The groups argue that as delays occur, costs are likely to rise and ratepayers in Georgia are on the hook due to legislation passed earlier this year that allows Georgia Power to request early cost recovery.

Most notably, the Toshiba Westinghouse AP-1000 reactor design, which is planned for Plant Vogtle, faces a regulatory gauntlet before its design is finalized. On October 15, the NRC made it clear in a press release that there are grave doubts if the AP-1000 nuclear reactor structure can withstand hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and other external impacts, as required. The NRC said that its “staff has informed Westinghouse that the company has not demonstrated that certain structural components of the revised AP1000 shield building can withstand design basis loads,” and also stated that the unsuccessful efforts to secure information had gone on for a year. The NRC announced, “This is a situation where fundamental engineering standards will have to be met before we can begin determining whether the shield building meets the agency’s requirements.” View the October 15 NRC letter to Westinghouse. # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. For more information, go to: