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Local Citizens Speak Out About New Nuclear Reactors

Local citizens speak out for three hours at Nuclear Regulatory Commission's public hearing on a draft environmental statement for Dominion VA Power's early site permit to build two new nuclear reactors at the North Anna Power Plant
Close to 300 people showed up at the Louisa Middle School on Thursday evening to participate in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s public hearing on a draft environmental impact statement the agency has prepared regarding an early site permit for Dominion VA Power to build two new nuclear reactors at the Lake Anna Nuclear Power Plant in Louisa.

Before the hearing, anti-nuclear activists hosted a rally in the cafeteria, while the NRC held an open house and pro-nuclear power folks tabled in the halls and held signs outside. The pro-nuclear activists were joined by three members of “Beauty Queens for Nuclear Waste?: Ms. Radioactive, Ms. Informed and Ms. Property Devaluation.

Once the hearing started, everyone packed into a meeting room to listen to an opening presentation by the NRC about the process. Throughout the presentation questions were raised about terrorism, the validity of various statistics and the value to taxpayers of the early site permit process, which costs $15 million, half of which will be paid by the federal government, according to Brendon Hoffman of public citizen.

Dominion Vice President Gene Greytech explained that Dominion “does not have any plans to build a nuclear plant at North Anna?, and is simply applying for the permit in case they someday decide to do so. At this news, cardboard “lie meters? held by several participants registered in the red zone.

Then, for three straight hours citizens took the podium for several minutes each to express their opinions both for and against the permit, the new reactors, the permit process and the nuclear industry. In a lengthly, hot session at times impassioned, and occasionally dull, local citizens, Dominion employees, anti-nuclear activists, grandmothers and an 11-year-old boy spoke their minds to the NRC and to each other.

Arjun Makhijani from the Institute for Energy andEnvironmental Research read several paragraphs from Dominion’s application and then read virtually the same paragraphs from the NRC’s environmental impact statement and asked whether they had simply started with a soft copy of the application and made some changes, a process he named plagerism.

Asa Bigoski, age 11, summed up much of the room’s sentiments in referring to nuclear power as “a really bad kind of power?. He and others voiced concerns over the effect a new reactor would have on the water level of Lake Anna. Asa cited the drought of 2003 when he couldn’t even flush his toilet. North Anna Power Plant uses 2.5 million gallons of water a day to cool the rods, he said. “Think how many toilets we could flush with 2.5 million gallons of water!?

Lisa Shell, a nuclear physicist who works for Dominion, insisted that nuclear power is safe “despite the misinformed opinion of a small group of career anti-nuclear activists?. Those against nuclear power must think of her either as an idiot or a villain, she said, though in reality she is an environmentalist. She shared several painful experiences she’d had with anti-nuclear activists. Several other nuclear physicists, also Dominion employees, shared similar hear-felt pleas to be seen as environmentalists.

Other pro-nuclear speakers spoke of the need for a reliable domestic power source and for base-line power that they said could not be provided by solar or wind power.

About half way through the process, Ms Radioactive, a.k.a. Jennifer Connor of Charlottesville, flounced to the podium to thank the NRC for allowing Dominion to build a new plant. “More power plants mean more toxic waste, and I love toxic waste,? she crooned. “It’s expensive, dangerous, and unpredictable, just like me!?

The next public meeting about this permit will be held in Rockville, MD on February 23rd, a location problematic for many who will be effected by the NRC’s decision.

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