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Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club Intervene in NRC

Posted Dec. 22, 2008 / Posted by: RConnors

For Immediate Release

Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club Intervene in Nuclear Regulatory Commission License Process for South Carolina Plants

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club today announced the filing of a petition to intervene in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing of the proposed South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G)/Santee Cooper nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer site in Jenkinsville, South Carolina. Friends of the Earth joined the petition.

The intervention was filed in response to an October 10 notice in the Federal Register by the NRC, which included an opportunity for interested parties to intervene. SCE&G filed a “Combined Operating License Application” with the NRC on March 27, a process which requires a multi-year review before a decision can be made on a combined construction and operating license.

Both environmental groups cite the cost uncertainties of the nuclear proposal, lack of final reactor design and unresolved nuclear waste issues as the focus of their concerns. The groups also assert SCE&G has not done an adequate assessment on implementation of energy efficiency and conservation, referred to as Demand Side Management (DSM), or given serious consideration to renewable energy potential in South Carolina.

“South Carolinians want energy sources that do not leave poisonous waste legacies,” said Susan Corbett, Chair of the S.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We believe American innovation can power America without building more dirty coal or risky, very expensive nuclear plants.”

SCE&G has announced its intention to build 2 new reactors at the Jenkinsville site and estimates the cost to be $6.3 billion for the two units. The public interest groups feel that electricity rates will spiral out of control as the units are constructed. Other utilities in states such as Florida and North Carolina estimate the cost of building similar units to be in excess of $17 billion and the U.S. Department of Energy estimated on October 2 that a single reactor costs about $9 billion. SCE&G projects the first unit will come online in 2016, the second in 2019 though the intervenors believe this schedule to be fraught with uncertainty and risk.

Interveners also question the electricity demand growth projected by the utility, citing national downward movement electricity-use trends as consumers switch to energy efficient products and implement conservation practices. SCE&G has admitted that it has still not prepared a thorough DSM analysis, thus ignoring cheaper and quicker alternatives to the reactor project.

The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design chosen by SCE&G has yet to receive final approval by the NRC and exists only on paper. Since SCE&G will be one of the first sites to construct the reactor if approval were to be gained, the groups worry the unproven design could create additional cost, schedule and environmental risks. The NRC review of the AP1000 design has stumbled and won’t be finished before 2011 at the earliest.

“As SCE&G makes money selling electricity, the company has set this nuclear project up as a way to kill conservation, efficiency and alternatives in South Carolina,” said Tom Clements, Southeastern Nuclear Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth. “We must not let a dangerous and costly reactor project take precedence right when cheaper, safer and cleaner options are sweeping the country.”

The issue of nuclear waste is also of great concern to the public. With Yucca Mountain not likely to open, high-level spent fuel will remain at the reactor sites around the state. The Sierra Club estimates there is nearly 4000 tons of deadly spent fuel already in the state with no exit strategy.

The petition to intervene was filed December 9, 2008, along with a statement of support by an expert witness and affidavits from Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth members living within 50 miles of the proposed project. The NRC will establish an Atomic Safety Licensing Board to review the petition and will inform the interveners if their contentions will be allowed. If they are allowed, a date will be set for the hearing. Columbia environmental lawyer Robert Guild will represent the two groups in the hearing process.

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Contact: Susan Corbett, Chair, SC Chapter, Sierra Club, 803-609-6343, 755-6929
Tom Clements, Friends of the Earth, 803-834-3084, cell 803-240-7268
Sierra Club Office, 1314 Lincoln St, Columbia, SC 803-256-8487

Notes to Editors:
1. October 10 Federal Register Notice “Order, Hearing and Opportunity to Petition for Leave to Intervene: South Carolina Electric & Gas Co.”, by the NRC: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-24166.htm

2. A copy of the intervention and associated expert testimony can be found on the NRC’s ADAMS digital library. At http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/web-based.html, click on “Begin ADAMS Search” and in the search box type in “ML083450076” and then click on the little yellow “package”

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The SC Chapter of the Sierra Club has over 5.000 members statewide and maintains an office in Columbia. The John Bachman group, which covers the Midlands area of the state, has over a thousand members. The organization is a citizen activist organization.

Friends of the Earth is an environmental organization with affiliates in 70 countries and is currently the only organization intervening before the S.C. Public Service Commission against a rate increase request by SCE&G for the two new reactors in Jenkinsville.
 

 

 

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