Legal victory for Ecology Party of FL in fight against Progress Energy nuke plants listen01/12/11 Seán Kinane
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This week Duke Energy announced it would purchase Progress Energy. A subsidiary, Progress Energy Florida has begun charging customers for a nuclear plant they hope to construct in Levy County.
Last month the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board ordered Progress Energy Florida to turn over its ecological modeling for review. Cara Campbell is chair of the Ecology Party of Florida, one of the groups challenging the nuclear plant.
Progress Energy Florida spokesperson Cherie Jacobs would only say the electricity company would cooperate with the order. "Progress Energy is working with those interveners and we will comply with the ASLB’s order."
"There are two nuclear reactors being proposed for a Greenfield site in rurual Levy County. Obviously because it's a Greenfield site. These are going to cost, I do not know off the top of my head, somewhere around $20 billion, I believe, to construct. We're already paying for those, you are up there, I'm paying for the one in Turkey Point, and I'm down in South Florida. The big issue for the Ecology Party is how much environmental devestation constructing and operating a plant would entail."
You, as a member of the Ecology Party of Florida, have taken part in a lawsuit against Progress Energy Florida which wants to build these plants. You've gotten a ruling from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. What is the ASLB and what's the ruling?
"I don't think this would really be characterized as a lawsuit, it's an intervention. The NRC process, there's a window for people to get in to submit what are called contentions. Those contentions are heard by the ASLB which is a group of judges that are kind of like,..I don't know if anybody knows about the NTSB, but they are sort of judges that are empaneled in different combinations to hear different contentions in different cases so...like in Turkey Point there are judges. We have a set of three and there are another three in Turkey Point. Their job is to try to balance between the interveners and the applicants and the staff. Usually the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is on the side of the applicants, so when you're an intervener you're not only fighting a huge corporation you're also fighting the government that you're paying to fight you."
What was the ruling that they made?
"The recent ruling was an issue that Progress Energy had done a 'water modeling' for their site application for the state of Florida permit. The modeling data, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff, which is totally separate from the ASLB, that modeling was not sufficient. They felt that it didn't adequately reflect the conditions at the site. So they asked Progress to recalibrate that model and submit that data. That was done, and when that was done it went from a 6 inch draw down around the well that Progress plans to make to draw ground water out to a 2.5 foot draw down. So, what we said was we would like to see those models. We said we want to see what you changed from one model to the other in order to get that draw down so that we could assess, our experts could assess whether that was enough. How do we know? They changed something and they went from 6 inches to 2.5 feet, it could possibly be maybe if they changed the right things it would go to 4 feet, we don't know. So that was what we said, we said we'd like to get that data and they said that they were not obligated to produce it."
"We wrote and filed a motion to compel and that was heard by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board in November and we had to go and present our case to both sides and we prevailed. The judges decided that it was reasonable and we should get to check their modeling because the other terrifying thing is nobody had checked that modeling. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff did not check it, so nobody has checked it. That was kind of scary to us. And the state, the other scary thing is the state has based their permit on the water model that the NRC staff feels is not good enough. The state doesn't even know that a new water model exists, as far as we know, that showed a much more serious draw down."
Did any of these things affect whether these nuclear plants are built or not?
"I don't know, I mean, it's certainly...I don't think that the NRC...the problem is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is kind of like the FDA, and they are not existing so much to help the people as they are to help the corporations that they're dealing with. I don't know. We're certainly hoping, what we really hope is that people understand what a huge impact these nuclear plants will make. You're up in where they had increased your rates when Progress started to get their early cost recovery. You have to remember that whether or not these nuclear plants are built, Progress is going to get their money from the rate payers. When that rate payer saw the first bills they were up in arms and so Progress lowered it, but it's just the frog in the water which is a horrible analogy. It's just going to keep going on. So what we're really hoping is that we can get people to say 'look, I don't want my money to go to pay for these big huge nuclear plants that are really going to benefit the energy companies because that's how they make their money, by building these plants.' And not so much the rate payer so much as something like distributed solar, many other green energy, conservation and other methods would obviate the need. Like, even if the Crystal River Energy Center were operating at it's efficient level, it would be as much power that is needed, but they don't operate it at that peak efficiency."
"It's complicated, I really hope that Progress decides that it doesn't want to build this plant. I'm not hopeful for that so it's really going to be up to the people to raise their voices to their legislators and to their elected representatives and make a stink."