Levy Reactor Licensing Decision Punts Risks for FL

Guest Blog | March 26, 2013 | Press Releases

TALLAHASSEE, FL.///March 26, 2013///Diane Curran, an attorney with Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P. – who represented the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) and the Ecology Party of Florida in their challenge to the license application of Progress Energy of Florida for two proposed new nuclear reactors in Levy County – issued the following statement today:

“Today’s decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), a three-judge panel appointed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), approves the construction and operation of two new reactors that would withdraw millions of gallons of water from fragile freshwater wetlands. The ASLB based its decision on unfulfilled promises by the State of Florida to monitor the wetlands during operation and correct the impacts if they occur. Yet again, the government is punting responsibility for harm to the environment to our children and grandchildren.

Just as the ‘advanced cost recovery’ financing scenario of these nuclear reactors allows utility companies to make ratepayers pay for reactors now whether or not the reactors ever get built, this decision essentially says: ‘We can let this project go ahead now because after the harm is done, someone will figure out how to fix it.’

It is not now and will never be acceptable to proceed with a nuclear reactor project without full knowledge of the negative impacts and a plan for how to deal with them.

Just as past generations have allowed nuclear waste to pile up and left us to figure out a solution for how to deal with it, the NRC is not doing due diligence in requiring a full study of the geology and groundwater around the site of the proposed new Levy reactors before granting a license for construction to proceed.

Experts from my clients, the Ecology Party of Florida and NIRS, warned that construction and operation of the proposed dual reactors would deplete the region’s aquifer, cause saltwater intrusion to the already-imperiled local water supply, drying up fragile springs, and harming wetland plants and wildlife in the area.

If, for example, a desalinization plant were part of a future mitigation plan, there would also be a significant added cost to Florida residents of constructing such a plant. To add insult to injury, Florida ratepayers are already paying billions up front for a nuclear plant that is not necessary and not economic.

This is just another example of corporate interests being allowed priority over Florida consumers and the environment. It’s time to stop laying responsibility at the feet of future generations.”

The location of the proposed Levy County two-reactor project is nine miles inland from the Gulf Coast, in an ecologically rich area consisting of forest and more than 700 acres of fresh-water wetlands. The wetlands play a critical role in the ecological health of the region and provide habitat for endangered and threatened species such as the Florida manatee and wood storks.

The ASLB’s decision is not a final licensing determination. As required by a recent court decision, the NRC must complete an environmental study of the long-term effects of spent fuel storage at Levy and other reactor sites before it can license the new reactors.