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Public Meeting

 Monday, November 13th, 2006

7:00 PM, New St. Simons Island Fire Station, Demere & Airport Roads
 

 
 

"Nuclear Plant Vogtle Expansion Proposal,
and What it Means for You"
 

 
 


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: 

Alternatives

   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.

Human Health

   Radiation is deadly.  More reactors mean more risk of accidents, more transport of radioactive materials, and more radioactive and toxic waste.


 

Security
   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   Vogtle’s 2 existing reactors require huge amounts of water with only 1/3 of what is withdrawn being returned to the Savannah River (~64 million gallons per day (mgd) withdrawal with consumption of ~43 mgd).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 worse.

         

Guest Speaker:  Sara Barczak,    
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

   

Sara Barczak is the Safe Energy Director for Southern Alliance For Clean Energy (SACE).  She oversees their coastal office in Savannah, Ga.  Sara provides extensive support to concerned citizens and organizing partners, participates in legislative, state and federal regulatory forums on issues concerning nuclear energy, public safety, utilities and the negative impacts of power plants on the region's water quality. Sara has worked for eleven years in diverse environmental fields in the private and non-profit sectors: as an environmental consultant for Department of Defense facilities relating to hazardous waste and air quality issues and as a citizen's advocate, educator and consultant for two non-profit organizations.  She received a B.A. in Biology from Lawrence University.

For more information: SACE, 428 Bull Street, Suite 201, Savannah, GA 31401; 912-201-0354; sara@cleanenergy.org; http://www.cleanenergy.org.

 



Nuclear Waste

   High-level radioactive waste (used nuclear fuel) has no place to be stored or disposed of, nor is it likely that a solution will be found in our lifetimes.  More reactors will yield more waste, with nowhere for it to go. 

Your Pocketbook:

   Georgia Power intends to add the cost of seeking these new reactors to your bill as a ratepayer, regardless of whether or not you ever get any electricity from them.
 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has to approve the licensing for these reactors.  GEC member organization The Center For A Sustainable Coast submitted the following comments to the NRC: 

 

We share the concerns of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) related to the proposed expansion of nuclear plant Vogtle as outlined in the early site permit (ESP) application submitted by Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC).  We strongly urge the NRC to consider its obligation to the public by expansively analyzing the true costs, benefits, and impacts of the proposed new reactors in terms of long-term, large-scale public interest, not artificially narrow criteria that are better suited to private sector business decisions.  NRC is well-advised to take such opinions seriously in light of a recent report by the Government Accountability Office that reveals fundamental flaws in project analysis by another federal government agency that evaluates massive projects, the Corps of Engineers. (See GAO-06-529T, March 2006.)  We strongly suspect that NRC, like the Corps and other

   

 politically 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 terrorism. 

   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 safety.
   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 warming pollution.

 

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