Sara Barczak of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
provided GEC members
and friends with a detailed analysis of Georgia Power Company’s request to
construct two new nuclear power reactors at
the existing Vogtle nuclear power plant in
Burke County near Waynesboro, about 26 miles southeast of Augusta.
What we learned is
that the expansion of nuclear power in Georgia will only make things worse
in all of the following areas:
Georgians need and
want clean and safe energy choices. Spending money on nuclear power will
delay our investment in solar, bio-mass, and other better sources of energy.
Radiation is deadly. More reactors mean more risk of accidents, more
transport of radioactive materials, and more radioactive and toxic waste.
Nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attack and sabotage. So are
centralized power grids.
Water Use & Supply
Vogtle’s 2 existing
reactors require huge amounts of water with only 1/3 of what is withdrawn
being returned to the Savannah River (~64 million gallons per day (mgd)
withdrawal with consumption of ~43 mgd). Two more reactors will make it
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
vulnerable governmental institutions, is at risk of drifting dangerously far
from its mission due to various forces that cause a pre-determined outcome
to be falsely substantiated by incomplete and subjective analysis.
The licensing of two
nuclear power reactors, with enormous commitments of water needed for
cooling, being proposed at the same time Georgia policies are advocating
prudent improvements in water-using efficiencies, is in direct conflict with
public interest as strongly supported initiatives in state water
management. Nuclear is the most water-intensive of all power sources per
kilowatt hour, is extravagantly subsidized by federal funding, and poses
virtually permanent threats to public health and safety – due to handling
and storage of radioactive materials as well as potentially catastrophic
impacts linked to human error, operation or equipment failure, or acts of
Such energy sources are simply not suited to sustainable and wise use of our
natural resources in meeting human needs. What is true generally is even
more applicable along the Savannah River, which is already burdened by
conflicting demands in both Georgia and South Carolina, areas having severe
water quality problems, and pre-existing proposals that further threaten the
ecosystem functions, including those of the estuary, one of the most
essential fish habitats on the planet. Squandering water resources on
cooling for nuclear-based power production is irresponsible, especially in
light of the potential for increasing energy efficiency and the use of
alternative technologies such as solar, wind, and tide power.
We are especially
troubled by the inevitably adverse effects that any expansion of
conventional types of power-generating capacity will have on renewable, safe
energy technologies that capture the enormous potential of wind, solar, and
tide power sources. Wind technology with generating capacity comparable to
the proposed reactors, for example, could be implemented well within the
period required to permit and construct the new facilities at Plant Vogtle.
Wind mapping off of Georgia’s coast clearly indicates that harvesting wind
energy would be practical, and the proven experience in other nations
strongly suggests that this could be accomplished within a 5-year period —
with little chance of cost-overruns that have been all too typical of
nuclear facilities, which also often take as long as eight-to-ten years to
be made operational. By permitting the construction and operation of the
proposed new reactors, future demand for power that could be met by using
alternative sources will be unwisely eliminated. Moreover, federal funds
that might be used to provide justifiable incentives for investing in
renewable energy technologies would instead be devoted to perpetuating the
substantial subsidy of nuclear energy, which has used about 60% of all U.S.
federal energy spending for the past 50 years.
For all of these reasons, the Center for
a Sustainable Coast is unconditionally opposed to the approval of nuclear
reactors at Plant Vogtle or anywhere else in Georgia’s coastal watersheds.
We resolutely join SACE in recommending that the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) prepare a comprehensive and objective Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the new facilities proposed at Vogtle that includes an
appropriately broad range of effects that building and operating two more
nuclear reactors at that location will impose on Georgia’s communities,
economy, and environment – defined as broadly as needed to serve the
long-term public interest. As stated by SACE staff in their submitted
statement, such an analysis must include careful evaluation of the potential
for improving the efficiency of energy use by all sectors and the
implications of such advancements for Georgia’s future.”
On Dec. 11th several organizations in Georgia filed a request to intervene
before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to protect Georgia from
further exploitation by the nuclear power industry. The organizations,
including Atlanta WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions), Blue Ridge
Environmental Defense League,
Center for a
Sustainable Coast, Savannah Riverkeeper and
Southern Alliance for
Clean Energy, filed a petition for intervention on behalf of their
members with the NRC to stop the proposed expansion of nuclear reactors at
Plant Vogtle in Burke County along the Savannah River. Emory University
School of Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic, along with Diane Curran of
Washington, D.C., are representing the groups.
“Investing in new nuclear reactors here in
Georgia is a big mistake. This will only make our communities more
vulnerable,” said Sara Barczak, safe energy director with Southern Alliance
for Clean Energy in their Savannah office. “What Georgia truly needs and
deserves is a future built upon safe, affordable energy such as energy
efficiency, wind, solar and bioenergy.”
The petition called upon the NRC to reject
the proposed nuclear expansion due to the effects it would have on low
income communities located near the plant, various aquatic species, water
supply and quality, nuclear waste management, security and public health and
If this permit were approved, Southern
Company and its utility partners could use the permit at any time for up to
20 years in any future applications with the NRC. Additionally, if the
permit were issued, concerns such as water, land, public health and safety
cannot be brought up again.
Several contentions related to environmental
impacts were raised. The petition stated that the application did not
evaluate the current conditions of the Savannah River or the overall
cumulative impact the proposed expansion at Plant Vogtle would have on the
river basin or fishery resources. For instance, the organizations’ petition
highlighted that the Savannah River population of the robust redhorse fish
species is only one of three small sub-populations known to exist.
The petition also addressed numerous
security, public health and safety concerns. The petition stated that the
application failed to address the impacts of intentional attacks on the
existing and proposed nuclear reactors or to evaluate a reasonable range of
alternatives for avoiding or mitigating those impacts. In addition, the
petition stated that the application failed to address the fact that cancer
rates in the minority and low-income community surrounding Plant Vogtle are
already higher than the general population, and therefore that they are more
vulnerable to the adverse impacts of radiological and chemical releases from
the proposed new reactors.
“Charles Utley staffs our Augusta office.
He, his family and our members in the area are already suffering from the
adverse health impacts from Vogtle and the Savannah River Site,” said Lou
Zeller, campaigner for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. He
added, “We are gravely concerned about cancer, birth defects, immune
deficiency and premature deaths.” The League has called for comprehensive
health studies before any new nuclear plants are permitted.
The organizations filing the petition believe future energy demand in
Georgia and across the region should be met by aggressive energy efficiency
and conservation measures and renewable energy. These measures pose less
risk to communities while playing an important role in reducing global