Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Raises Nuclear Site Concerns In Atomic Safety & Licensing Board Hearing

Counsel for TSEP Says Caution Warranted in Wake of Japanese Nuclear Events

Mar 16, 2011, 21:11 ET from Texans for a Sound Energy Policy

VICTORIA, Texas, March 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today Texans for a Sound Energy Policy (TSEP) appeared at a hearing before a three-judge panel of the Atomic Safety & Licensing Board (ASLB) to press its legal and scientific concerns with Chicago-based Exelon's proposed site for a nuclear power plant in Victoria County, Texas.

Today's hearing was the first step in narrowing the issues that will be fully litigated by the parties before the ASLB as it determines whether to grant, condition or deny the Early Site Permit Exelon has filed for the site.

TSEP attorney Jim Blackburn comments, "I was pleased with the proceedings today, especially because it is rare for a non-profit to present this level of legal and scientific case to the board to assist them in making these critical decisions."

In a day of probing questions of both parties from the panel of judges, TSEP continued to press the core issues of their contentions.  On several issues, including the cooling pond's relevance as a safety concern, Exelon's lawyers sought refuge behind process and procedure, while TSEP attorney Jim Blackburn urged the judges to give common sense consideration to issues that are now clearly seen as critical safety considerations.

"We are all sobered by the events that have taken place in Japan in recent days that call into stark relief the need for careful, complete and deliberate consideration of every potential impact of siting a proposed nuclear plant, especially the role of water and the cooling pond as a safety features," said TSEP attorney Jim Blackburn.

To TSEP's amazement, Exelon admitted it would consider shutting down the plant in times of sever water shortage, while simultaneously denying that the cooling pond is a safety feature.

Blackburn explained, "Locating a nuclear power plant in one of the most drought-prone areas of the state raises both safety and environmental issues, and that's before we even talk about the presence of active growth faults on the site and an absolutely unprecedented level of oil & gas exploration that is present on this wholly untested greenfield site."

While appearing to acknowledge growth faults on the site, Exelon's lawyers sought to discount this risk by downplaying its relevance to plant safety by arguing technical interpretations of the regulations that fly in the face of common sense.

TSEP expressed concerns about Exelon's position that oil and gas wells would be plugged as encountered with bulldozers while grading the site, rather than employing remote sensing and geophysical tools to assess site suitability for permitting. It was acknowledged during the hearing that the proposed Victoria County site presents issues, including growth faults and oil and gas activity, never encountered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in any other permitted site in the United States.

Blackburn pressed Exelon to commit to how it would secure a "highly dependable" source of water for the plant as required under NRC regulations, and in turn Exelon repeatedly evaded any realistic assessment of site suitability by stating it wasn't obligated under NRC rules identify to a water source at this point.

Blackburn explains, "Our permitting process is writing checks that the river can't cash. The reality of our water issue is that in the drought of 2008, with far less than full utilization of permitted water rights from the Guadalupe River, the City of Victoria was forced off the river to groundwater." He continued, "If there is enough water to support all these permits that never would have happened."

Because there was conceptual agreement between all parties that issues associated with the Whooping Crane must be addressed, the judges took the unusual step of requesting that the parties develop agreed language to allow these issues to be fully litigated before recessing the hearing until 9 AM tomorrow morning.

Texans for a Sound Energy Policy (TSEP) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to support a Texas energy supply policy that is reasonable, sustainable and environmentally sound. TSEP was founded as a public service by various members and entities associated with the original D. M. O'Connor Ranches of Texas.

SOURCE Texans for a Sound Energy Policy