Luminant cheers decision on Comanche Peak plans

August 9, 2010

By Jack Z. Smith
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has made a preliminary finding that "there are no environmental impacts that would preclude" issuing combined construction and operating licenses for a proposed expansion of the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant 45 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

The federal agency’s decision is contained in a draft environmental impact statement that was filed late Friday with the Environmental Protection Agency, commission spokesman Scott Burnell told the Star-Telegram Monday.

Dallas-based Luminant, the electric power generator proposing to build two new 1,700-megawatt reactors at Comanche Peak, is "pleased with the NRC’s preliminary recommendation" in support of "more safe, dependable nuclear power in Texas," said company spokeswoman Ashley Monts.

Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, an opponent of the plant expansion, said Monday: "We remain very concerned that there are environmental impacts that are not being adequately addressed."

Water usage an issue

Hadden said the group is particularly concerned about water withdrawals from Lake Granbury that would be required for the two new reactors. The group previously estimated that withdrawals could reach 91.5 million gallons per day during maximum operations. Luminant has said that there should be sufficient water supplies and that substantial volumes will be recycled.

Hadden’s group has urged that instead of building the new reactors, additional renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power should be developed, in conjunction with compressed-air energy storage and natural gas-fired generation.

Public meetings

NRC staff members will seek public comment on the agency’s preliminary finding in meetings to be held from 1 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. on Sept. 21 in the Glen Rose Expo Center at 202 Bo Gibbs Blvd. in Glen Rose. Staffers from the NRC and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will discuss the draft environmental impact statement at the meetings.

NRC staffers will be available for informal discussions with the public during "open house" sessions from noon to 1 p.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. at the center, immediately preceding the three-hour meetings that begin at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Continued opposition

Hadden said the SEED coalition, together with a group of plant opponents known as True Cost of Nukes, will "continue to oppose these new reactors."

"We will be at the Sept. 21 meetings and encourage the citizens to join us," she said.

The two new reactors, dubbed Units 3 and 4, would more than double generating capacity at the current two-unit Comanche Peak plant four miles north of Glen Rose.

Cost estimate

Luminant CEO David Campbell estimated in July that the plant expansion would cost $15 billion to $20 billion. Luminant hopes to win approval of combined construction and operating licenses by late 2012 or early 2013, he said. The new units could go online in the 2018-2020 timeframe, perhaps a year apart, he said.

The expansion would create approximately 5,000 jobs at the Comanche Peak site during five years of construction, and more than 500 permanent jobs there, economist Ray Perryman has estimated

The expanded plant’s indirect economic effect would create 2,847 permanent jobs in the Somervell County area in the general vicinity of Comanche Peak, and 6,264 permanent jobs throughout Texas, Perryman has estimated.

The two new reactors would provide enough power to serve an estimated 1.7 million homes.

Future hearing

A three-member panel of the federal Atomic Safety and Licensing Board agreed in late June to hold a future hearing regarding arguments by plant opponents that a combination of renewable energy, natural gas and energy storage could provide a feasible alternative to expansion of Comanche Peak. No hearing date has been set, said Burnell, the NRC spokesman.

Jack Z. Smith, 817-390-7724

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