Intervention in the proposal by Progress Energy Florida to site two reactors in a rural area of Florida, rich in natural freshwater springs that support many threatened and endangered species, has recently become turbocharged. While only one contention remains from a field of 14, this one is one of the broadest environmental impact issues ever admitted by an Atomic Safety Licensing Board, the body which hears challenges to license action by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Levy County Nuclear Power Plant is a proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County, Florida consisting of two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. Progress Energy Florida in 2006 estimated that the reactors would cost US$5 billion and would commence operation in 2016. But it has become clear that the new Levy County reactors will not start operating for at least another decade, if ever. The utility now estimates that the reactors will cost between US$17 billion and US$22 billion, not counting financing charges and cost overruns.
An area Fund that prefers to remain unnamed offered US$50,000 to the Ecology Party of Florida and Nuclear In-formation and Resource Service (NIRS) to support legal action against the Levy county proposal. The gift provided for an expert legal team and the retention of three additional technical experts. "We are confident our case will force a wider consideration of the impact of using water to service and cool the splitting atoms than the NRC provides in its very weak Final Environmental Impact Statement," said Mary Olson, Southeast Regional Coordinator for NIRS. The FEIS on the Levy County 1 & 2 plan was published in April and is posted on the NRC website. Selected intervener documents in the Levy challenge are posted on the NIRS website.
In addition to the immediate environmental concerns is the matter of previous protections that were enacted to preserve the same area. Progress Energy Florida (PEF) and the NRC have ignored restrictions on activities along the Marjorie Harris Carr Greenway - previously, and now again called the Cross Florida Barge Canal by PEF since it wants to reverse the flow of this manmade trough to bring salty water from the Gulf of Mexico to discharge into the fragile Levy terrain via two draft cooling towers.
The intervener's contention will be heard by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board on paper between now and Oc-tober 31, and then on Halloween, PEF will defend its plan to split atoms atop some of the most fragile and pristine freshwater is North America.
An outstanding issue for PEF is a seismic analysis in order to respond to the NRC's Fukushima Request for Additional Information. The two AP1000 units proposed at Levy are already unique since there is no bedrock that can be used to anchor the units, a 30-foot thick 'mat' of rolled concrete has been added below each nuclear island; the concept is that in the event of liquefaction during a seismic event, the whole reactor pad would float. It is not clear how the interface with other critical safety equipment would be handled. The new seismic study is due out this month, and could impact the hearing schedule if the results warrant a new contention.
Source and contact: Mary Olson, NIRS Southeast Office. PO Box 7586 Ashe-ville, NC 28802 USA.