Environmentalists fight planned nuclear plant

San Antonio Business Journal
Monday, February 23, 2009

Environmental groups throughout Texas are lining up to oppose the South Texas Nuclear Operating Co.’s plans to build two additional reactors at its plant near Bay City, Texas.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has filed notice in the Federal Register giving citizens the ability to challenge the proposed reactors. Groups have 60 days to oppose the proposed expansion of the nuclear power plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission must still grant a license to build the new reactors.

Environmental groups planning to formally oppose the project include the newly formed Bay City-based South Texas Association for Responsible Energy (STARE), the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, and Public Citizen.

The South Texas Nuclear Operating Co. is owned by NRG Texas LLC (44 percent), San Antonio-based CPS Energy (40 percent) and Austin Energy (16 percent). The company currently has two nuclear-power generating reactors in operation near Bay City, which is 90 miles southwest of Houston.

NRG and CPS Energy are pursuing the proposed expansion, which will generate more than 2,600 megawatts of electricity, cost $6 billion to build and create enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes, according to a 2008 report by the Texas Comptroller for Public Accounts. Austin Energy has declined to participate in the expansion.

“New reactors would saddle homeowners and taxpayers with additional debt for infrastructure, more radioactive waste that would sit in our community, and more risk of nuclear accidents, health impacts and radioactive exposure,” contends Susan Dancer, executive director of STARE. “These are among the many reasons we will intervene in opposition to more nuclear reactors.”

“There are cleaner, more affordable ways to generate electricity," says Cindy Wheeler of the Consumers’ Energy Coalition in San Antonio. “With the economic downturn, we shouldn’t generate power that’s not needed. San Antonio has reduced energy use by 16 percent over the past two years.”

CPS Energy officials say the utility must look for ways to meet the energy needs of customers.

“At CPS Energy, we constantly look at all viable options to provide our customers with reliable, cost-competitive electricity that’s produced in an environmentally responsible manner,” says CPS Energy spokeswoman Theresa Brown Cortez. “Currently, we use low-sulfur coal, renewable sources such as wind and solar, nuclear energy, natural gas as well as energy efficiency and conservation to meet our customers’ electrical needs.”

CPS Energy officials say its staff will continue to evaluate options for generating electricity to meet the future needs of ratepayers.

“As we’ve indicated on numerous occasions, a decision on CPS Energy’s participation in expanding (the nuclear power plant) won’t come until later this year,” Cortez says.

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