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By Chris Van Ormer
Citrus County Chronicle
The environmental impact of the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County could hit Robert Smith hardest. Once it is built, Smith will live 6,800 feet behind the buildings that will house two nuclear reactors.
“When you did a study of locations, why was Crystal River not suitable?” Smith asked Thursday at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting in Crystal River called to discuss the draft environmental impact statement for the construction project.
Douglas Bruner, project manager for Environmental Projects Branch 3 with the NRC, answered: “In our review of alternate sites, the NRC determined that no other site was preferable.” Smith persisted.
“If Crystal River was not suitable, then why not shut it down?” Smith asked.
Andrew Kugler, NRC environmental project senior manager, replied that the NRC looked at a number of sites, none of which were obviously better than the Levy County site. The NRC was not saying that the new nuclear plant could not be built in Crystal River. It came down to a business decision by the applicant, Progress Energy Florida, for the combined license to construct and operate the plant.
“We don’t pick the site for the applicant,” Kugler said.
Kugler speculated that separating the two nuclear plants would make business sense so that a major weather event could not take out both plants.
Smith said he moved up from Key West to live in a rural community with few neighbors. After an NRC member said the project also would have a positive economic impact on the area, bringing jobs and growth, Smith said, “I moved here because I didn’t want the growth. We’re at the south end of town where it is least populated, and I don’t want that.”
Smith raised many questions for the NRC. Have there been any health studies of people who live within a mile of a nuclear plant within the past 30 years? Have there been any studies of the devaluation of properties near nuclear plants within the past 30 years? Which way will the water flow underneath the land in the area? Which way would the wind blow most often on the property site on average? Smith said he had information that it would blow toward his property.
Would the salt drift affect Smith’s metal roof and cars? Would salt affect local wildlife — deer, turkeys, squirrels and rabbits? What would be the effect on a person’s vegetable garden?
“If I eat my vegetables, will I glow in the dark?” Smith asked.
What would be the effects of the noise and the lights at the Levy County site?
“It’s going to affect me,” Smith said.
Where will nuclear waste be stored on the property? How long would it be there?
Smith also asked why the growth in Crystal River was east and south, but not around the plant itself.
Following introductions by NRC staff and members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, many residents spoke both for and against the project, in addition to Smith.
Iris Rose of Homosassa commented that the project would displace too great an area of wetlands. An NRC staff member responded that logging and forestry management had disturbed much of the area, so the impact was considered moderate. The applicant also had fulfilled the requirements of mitigation.
Bill Gavin of Crystal River asked why wind generation was not being pursued. Kugler said the utility needed to build a base-load generation plant with a constant, reliable energy source to maintain and stabilize the power grid.
Dixie Hollins of Crystal River spoke highly of the Crystal River power plant.
“We’ve been neighbors to the power plant and they are a first-class power plant producing safe energy and they are concerned for the environment,” Hollins said.
He said the utility worked with him to protect his timberlands from salt drift.
“We have lived in their back yard,” Hollins said. “They are the best and most secure neighbors you will ever have.”
Crystal River City Manager Andy Houston said the socio-economic impact of the Crystal River power plant was not rampant growth, so Levy County should not expect that.
“It has been beneficial to the area,” Houston said.
Darrell Diamond of Inglis said the utility and the city of Inglis need better communication about public health and safety. He said Inglis has a police force of five and would need more police staff and a sewer system if the project goes ahead.
John Elnitsky, vice president, New Generation Programs and Projects with Progress Energy, said the utility was committed to safety and reliability. He said the utility is involved with the community and that the project will create 3,000 jobs at the peak of construction and 800 permanent jobs after construction. The project, he said, was carefully planned for the long-term economic growth of the state and its energy security.
Betty Berger of Inglis spoke of many issues, but particularly of her concern about the risk of saltwater contamination of fresh water with the project requiring gulf water for coolant being piped 13 miles.
Renate Cannon of Suwannee River said she was concerned about ground water contamination.
Greg Paolino of Levy County said he had worked in coal mining, so supported cleaner nuclear energy.
“We need to set the bar for the world in reducing carbon emissions,” Paolino said.
Norman Hopkins of Citrus County spoke about tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The production of tritium is a side effect of the operation of nuclear reactors, Hopkins said, and where it is accumulated, it can be ingested.
“It abides within the water molecule and can’t easily be removed,” Hopkins said.
Maria Minnow said she “lives downwind of this place.” She asked the NRC to revoke the license as she said the power plant was not needed.
Robert Fetro, who said he lives part-time in Inglis, urged the NRC to “start the project as soon as possible.”
“Let this be the starting point for economic recovery in this state,” Fetro said.
Bill Gavin of Homosassa said energy and jobs were needed, but not at a cost of the impact on the wetlands.
Sally Price of Inglis said Levy County is in turmoil.
“Environmentally, this is not the right place to put this,” Price said.
Commenting on the plant
Comment period on the draft environmental impact study finishes Oct. 27.
Access to the draft: www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1941.
Copies available at: Coastal Region Library, Crystal River; Dunnellon Branch Library, Dunnellon; A.F. Knotts Public Library, Yankeetown; and Bronson Public Library, Bronson.
Contact: Douglas Bruner as (301) 415-2730 or Douglas.Bruner@nrc.gov.
The final report will be published
in July 2011.