New nuclear plant gets cabinet OK, still faces challenges

08/11/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Governor Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet have approved Progress Energy's bid to build a nuclear power plant in Levy County.

However, that doesn't mean the request will ultimately go through.

Progress Energy still requires approval from environmental regulators and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can begin construction on the project, about 10 miles north of Crystal River and 8 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Public Service Commission approved the new plant a year ago, along with two new nuclear generators at the Turkey Point facility in South Florida.

The utility's plans call for wiping out about 765 acres of wetlands. But Mike Sole, head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, called the 765 acres "the worst-case scenario" and said his department "will work diligently to minimize this impact."

Even with the Cabinet vote, Progress has many hurdles. The federal government has oversight of the proposed project, particularly over nuclear safety matters. In July, as public hearings were held around the state about the proposal, federal regulators with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled that environmental groups could challenge the proposal. One of those groups is the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, based in Asheville, North Carolina. Mary Olson is the Southeast Regional Coordinator for the group.

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