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Hearing discusses nuclear plant licenses


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A nuclear power plant license proposed by Progress Energy is being challenged in court at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson.

Progress Energy proposed a nuclear power plant in Levy County in 2006 and later applied for two nuclear reactor licenses in 2008. The licenses are now under review in a contested trial, according to a spokesman from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott Burnell, the spokesman, said trial is a part of the licensing process but in this case, two advocacy groups, The Ecology Party and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, are challenging the issue.

“The groups have offered arguments saying that the application and the staff’s review of it, for one reason or another, failed to take into account the potential impact,” he said. “And the board will listen to each side’s arguments to determine whether or not the review at this point has met the relevant standards.”

Burnell said the case will be reviewed by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board.

“The board is a collection of administrative law specialists,” he said. “They are hired by the government because of their expertise in one aspect or another of the legal background that goes into the licensing process.”

The administrative law judges, he said, have expertise in the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environment Policy Act and the technical aspects of licensing.

Suzanne Grant, spokeswoman for Progress Energy,  said in order for the project to move on, a license must be granted. Progress Energy has applied for a combined construction and operating license.

“We are working toward getting our combined operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” she said. “We’ve been operating in that way looking toward getting that license in 2013. And I think it is necessary for us to move forward with the project.”

A spokeswoman from one of the groups contesting the licenses, Mary Olson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said a main concern is environmental implications, especially in water.

“This is the contention on the impact on water – on groundwater, on surface water, on the ecology that depends on that water, on the whole matter of pulling the saltwater into the reactor site,” she said.

Burnell said the earliest a court decision will be given is 2014.

Kelsey Meany wrote this story for online.

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