Levy nuclear plant clears another hurdle

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NRC's environmental impact statement upheld

Special to the Beacon

An Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has rejected a challenge by two environmental groups to an application to license two new nuclear power reactors in Levy County, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. 

Progress Energy of Florida, now part of Duke Energy Corporation, has proposed building a two-unit nuclear reactor on a site between Inglis and Lebanon Station in south Levy County. While original plans called for breaking ground on the facility in 2009, it has been delayed until 2016. 

The three-member board of administrative judges, who are independent of the NRC staff, conducted an evidentiary hearing on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012 in Bronson. 

Two groups — the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Ecology Party of Florida — claimed the NRC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued on April 27, 2012, failed to adequately identify and assess the proposed Levy nuclear plant’s direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts on wetlands and groundwater resources. 

The applicant, Progress Energy of Florida, and the NRC staff argued the FEIS satisfied all of the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The ASLB's evidentiary hearing in Bronson involved more than 300 exhibits and 24 witnesses. The board’s more than 140-page decision, that the FEIS complies with legal and regulatory requirements, made findings that include:  

• The statement fairly and reasonably describes the Levy area’s geology and hydrology.

• Evidence from the hearing did not support the groups’ claim that the site is underlain by active sinkholes, groundwater conduits, or significant “preferential pathways” for groundwater flow.

• The Levy nuclear plant application’s groundwater modeling was reasonable and professional.

• The FEIS reasonably relies on the concrete and highly prescriptive monitoring and mitigation requirements imposed on the proposed Levy nuclear plant by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Florida and the Southwest Florida Water Management District via permits such as the state-issued water use permit.

• It is reasonable to rely on the Corps and state agencies, such as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to assure that Progress Energy of Florida will actually implement, and successfully perform, the prescribed monitoring and mitigation measures.

The ASLB’s decision can be appealed to the five-member commission in charge of the agency. Unless appealed, the ASLB decision becomes the NRC’s final determination on the environmental issues raised by the environmental groups.