Frustrating those who question the wisdom of expanding the South
Texas Nuclear Project, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has
accepted the application to build and operated two new nukes at the
Matagorda site. That is, they accepted the application despite finding
major gaps in it that have frozen the review process.
While that may delay the potential permitting by a year or so, NRC
officials have not offered to leave the door open for the public to
comment on the new information as it comes in. Smitty
Smith, Public Citizen's resident bulldog in the state, harped
on the NRC reps repeatedly on this point at last week's Bay City
Others were concerned that the application fails to identify
alternatives to new nuclear power for San Antonio, Houston, and the
deregulated market in the Lone Star State.
Austin, a 16-percent partner in STNP nuke plants 1&2, said the
expansion it too
risky to join.
Austin Energy will recommend
to the City Council next week that Austin not participate, based on a
consultant's analysis of NRG's proposal. Six members of the council
said this week they will support the Austin Energy recommendation.
Nuclear power is a
political hot potato in Austin. But Mayor Will Wynn said this decision
was not about politics or the city's policy on using nuclear power.
Having only 90 days
to evaluate the option, Wynn said, "takes the politics out of it."
Instead, it was a
business decision stemming from the consultant's determination that
NRG's cost estimate and timeline were "overly optimistic." Austin would
be assuming too much financial risk based on too little information,
NRG estimates the
expansion will cost $6 billion and take seven to eight years to
Worley Parsons Resources & Energy of Houston, determined that
the expansion's cost could be at least $1 billion more than estimated
and take two years longer, according to a memo to the City Council. The
consultant was hired in December for $205,625.
days after the February 5 hearings, the Sustainable Energy and Economic
Development Coalition (SEED),
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Beyond Nuclear,
and the Sierra Club
called on the NRC to stop the clock on the public's right to comment on
It's almost comical. NRG chose to go with an already-permitted, older
model of power plant because they thought it would grease their way
through the NRC. However, CPS officials told me months back that the
NRC had reordered its staff with expectations that the rush for new
nuke permits following the billions in incentives from Congress would
naturally zero in on the safer, more reliable New Generation plants.
Instead, the Feds had to scramble to reorder their seats again after
the unexpected older plant model chosen by NRG. And now it appears the
application was so rushed that it is deemed, if not technically
"incomplete," at least unworkable.
According to the February 8 petition filed by Public Citizen and crew:
correspondence -- placed on the NRC's Agency Document Access and
Management System ("ADAMS") within the last eight days –
shows that neither STPNOC nor the NRC Staff believes that the Staff has
any basis for continuing its review of most of the application until
STPNOC makes major changes to it … These changes may include
modifications to the certified standardized design for the advanced
boiling water reactor ("ABWR") on which STPNOC's application relies.
Id. The Staff does not intend to resume review of the greater part of
the application, or even establish a schedule for its review, until
STPNOC submits necessary revisions to the COL application.
So the question is, how can the public understand, much less challenge
or comment upon an incomplete application? Still the deadline of
February 25 looms for any would-be challenge or request for a public
hearing on the application.
San Antonio's Southwest
Worker's Union joined the legal resistance this week, urging
the NRC to halt its license review and extend public comment through
the summer, and maybe then some.
Their attorney Lanny Sinkin writes:
Overall, the course of
conduct followed by the [Nuclear Regulatory] Commission suggests a
concerted effort to thwart the efforts of citizens to become informed
participants in a decision making process that has very serious
potential impacts on their lives. As one of the first
proposed reactors in what may be a large number of such applications,
the process followed in this proceeding may portend a tactic to be used
nationally to suppress or inhibit interventions.
Petitioner is fully
aware of the tremendous burden being placed on the NRC staff. The
agency is dealing with (1) an aging group of operating reactors more
prone to breakdowns, equipment failures, and accidents and, therefore,
requiring heightened oversight; (2) a flood of new applications for
construction and operating licenses requiring review of extensive
materials submitted by license applicants; (3) large numbers of
experienced staff retiring; (4) hiring large numbers of new staff; (4)
training large numbers of new staff; (5) assigning major
responsibilities to inexperienced staff; and (6) updating key studies
and documents that are seriously out of date.
circumstances, there is a natural tendency on the part of the agency to
try to reduce its workload. Keeping out intervenors and their potential
contentions would help achieve that purpose. Such a plan, however,
would violate the rights of those excluded and the policies and rules
the Commission claims to follow. In an endeavor where close observation
of the rules is critical, the Commission should set the example of
appropriate relief is to rescind the improvident acceptance of the
application for docketing and restore the application to tendered
status, until such time as the application is complete and the
applicant and NRC staff are prepared to initiate a comprehensive review.
If you haven't endured enough nuke legalese yet, check out the
(such as it is) online with the NRC. Scroll down until you see South
Texas Project toward the bottom of the first column.
In other energy news, two-fisted NRG, trying to whallop us with a left-handed nuke deal, is
also pursuing a kinder, gentler, renewable
Texas with a West Texas wind investment along with British
NRG Energy, Inc. (NYSE:
NRG) through its wholly owned subsidiary, Padoma Wind Power LLC, has
entered into a 50-50 joint venture with BP Alternative Energy North
America Inc. to build the first phase of the Sherbino Wind Farm in west
The Sherbino I Wind
Farm will be a 150-megawatt (MW) wind project, consisting of 50 Vestas
3 MW wind turbine generators, located approximately 40 miles east of
Fort Stockton in Pecos County, Texas, according to a release.
Of course, they also can't keep their hands out of the coal (gasification)
SOMERSET — With
a man-sized penguin outside in the cold trying to draw people in,
members of an environmental coalition tried to rally opposition to
plans by NRG Energy to turn its coal-fired power plant into a facility
that uses superheated gas to turn coal and biofuels into synthetic
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has given the
proposal a green light, environmentalists are appealing the decision,
contending that NRG should be required to comply with its original
promise to either shut the plant down or covert to clean natural gas by
Remember, NRG is Hillary's campaign cash
bundler of at least $100,000. And Obama is knee-deep with
pollutor Excellon, now pursuing a plant
outside Corpus Christi.