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LOCAL Commentary :: Environment

The NRC's subtle deception: How the NRC disregrads public protest against nuclear power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commision (NRC) yesterday made a show of considering public comments and concern about the impact of proposed new nuclear power plants at North Anna. In reality, they will dismiss and ignore all of yesterday's comments which are deemed beyond the scope of their Environmental Impact Study. As it turns out, most concerns about the safety of nuclear power fall outside the NRC's study.
The auditorium of Louisa County Middle School was packed on Thursday February 17th, with suporters and opponents of Dominion's application to build 2 new nuclear power plants at North Anna. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was holding a public hearing to discuss the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which considers the environmental impact of the consturction and operation of new nuclear power plants at North Anna.

Signs and literature were displayed, trying to persuade the undecided, or perhaps the media and politicians, that each side had more support and more compelling arguments. At 6 p.m., an hour before the hearing was scheduled to begin, a rally was held in the school cafeteria. The speakers and the literature warned of the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear waste, and the sinister military uses of depleted uranium, a by-product of creating uranium fuel. Meanwhile, The Charlottesville Catholic Worker and Little Flower Catholic Workers performed "sidewalk" theater outside the school, dramatizing the dangers and permanence of nuclear waste.

The NRC hearing began at 7 p.m. After speakers from the NRC described the permitting process, there was time for public comments. Speakers who had signed up ahead of time were invited to speak for 3 minutes. The moderator from the NRC ensured everyone present that a transcript was being written, and that everyone's concerns would be considered in the final EIS. He also assured the audience that a spoken comment would receive the same consideration as a written comment. He then called up the speakers, and politely but firmly held everyone, regardless of their stated position, to a three minute time frame.

Unfortunately, what he did not clearly communicate is that comments not specifically addressing the environmental impact of a nuclear plant at the North Anna site, will be ignored. They will be recorded in the final version on the NRC's Environmental Impact Statement, and then dismissed with little comment.

For example, think Dominon should pursue renewable energy? That's irrelevant. Think nuclear power is too dangerous to pursue anywhere? Also irrelevant. Concerns about terrorism, nuclear power's heavy reliance on federal subsidies, the byproducts of uranium mining and enrichment, Dominion's need (or lack therof) for power, renewable energy alternatives, and the future of Yucca mountain as a repository for spent fuel rods are all irrelevant to the NRC's EIS. The only comments which will be considered are those which narrowly address the impact of the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at North Anna.

The NRC's dismissal of public concerns is evident in the very document supposedly discussed on Thursday night, the draft EIS. In the document, comments from the initial public hearings are included with responses from the NRC. Many people commented on the need to pursue alternative energy sources instead of nuclear power. The NRC recorded three pages of these comments, then responds, "consideration of alternative energy sources need not be included in the applicant's environmental report. In the case of the Nort Anna ESP [Early Site Permit] application, Dominion chose not to include consideration of alternative energy sources, and therefore, these will not be included in the EIS." (Draft EIS, D-22). Concerning emergency preparedness and the need for adequate evacuation plans, the NRC says, "The [public] comments relate to the aequacy of emergency plans, which is a safety issue that is outside the scope of the staff's environmental review." (Draft EIS, D-25). In the end, many of the passionate and eloquent comments and speeches made by opponenets of nuclear power will be dismissed and buried with one beuraucratic sentence. And rather than alert people to the sad fact that their comments were aimed at the wrong audience, the NRC thanked the speakers and assured them their comments mattered.

Comments and opposition do matter, in fact. Those of us who oppose nuclear power need to make our voices heard. We need to contact our senators and local representatives to let them know you oppose new nuclear plants at North Anna. We need to attend rallies and public meetings. They will listen! The Spotsylvania County Supervisors recently voted 5-2 to oppose the plant. (fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2005/022005/02112005/1667120)

We can also comment on the Environmental Impact Statement, but in order to be heard in this forum, we must comment on their study, not on nuclear power generally. Please contact the NRC, and tell them you oppose this plant for environmental reasons. The deadline for commenting on the EIS is March 1st. The NRC admits that there will be adverse affects on the environment if a new plant is built, so tell them you care. Email NorthAnna_ESP (at) nrc.gov mentioning one of these problems in your letter:

1. Water level will decrease in the lake and in the the North Anna river. This will harm fish and underwater vegetation. The North Anna river is also part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, so problems in this river create problems in the Bay.

2. Lake Anna will have an increase in temperature, as its water is used to cool the new plant. This will have an adverse affect on striped bass populations, a non-native speices but one that is very popular for fishing.

3. During drought years, the effects on the lake will be more severe. Water levels can be expected to drop and temperatures rise. This will also affect the lake's recreational value.

4. Construction will disturb the environment, possibly destroying streams and wetlands and polluting the environment with contaminats and heavy metals.

Here is a sample letter, taken from northanna.nonewnukes.org/ (without permission).


Please edit and adapt these comments to reflect your personal concerns. You can email them to NorthAnna_ESP (at) nrc.gov or print/hand write them and snail mail them to the address below.

Chief, Rules and Directives Branch
Division of Administrative Services
Office of Administration
Mailstop T-6D59
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

Re: Comments on Draft NUREG-1811

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to OPPOSE granting an Early Site Permit (ESP) to Dominion Resources to build two new reactors at the North Anna nuclear plant in Mineral, VA. The draft Environmental Impact Statement states that construction activities permissible under the ESP may stir up heavy metals and other contaminants in the lake sediment, while details about mitigation measures are murky. Further, other effects on the lake, such as temperature increases and reduced water levels, are not fully analyzed. Finally, questions about the adequacy of current security regulations and performance are ignored, as are issues of waste generation and its safe, permanent isolation.

Too many questions remain unanswered and too many problems remain unsolved for the NRC to grant an ESP.


Your Name and Address

Also consider contacting your local government, state legislators, and senators to make your opposition clear.

Contact Senator Warner

Contact Senator Allen

Contact the People's Alliance for Clean Energy for more information on how to oppose new nuclear power plants in Virginia!

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