NRC hears STP backers, detractors

By Mike Reddell
Bay City Tribune

February 6, 2008

Supporters and opponents of STP's units 3 and 4 took center stage at the first of two Nuclear Regulatory Commission's public meetings on the plant's environmental impact Tuesday.

An estimated 260 people attended the NRC's afternoon public scoping session at the Bay City Civic Center, while the evening meeting was expected to draw more.

The Tuesday sessions were aimed at drawing public comments that will be part of the NRC's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that includes suitability of the site and how seismic, flooding or hurricanes could affect the plant, said George Wunder, NRC's senior project manager, division of new reactor licensing.

Wunder said the environmental and safety review for STP's units 3 and 4 also would include how the reactors are built, quality assurances and the security and training involved with 5,000 construction workers.

"Through the environmental review, we can document decisions in a clear way to ensure the entire process is open as possible, no matter what decision is made," Wunder said.

While the NRC's permit application process calls for tandem environmental and safety reviews, STP found "design-support issues" and asked NRC for a partial hold of the safety review Jan. 10. NRC put most of the safety review on hold Jan. 30.

About five protestors - mostly from San Antonio - carrying placards that carried anti-nuke messages greeted people arriving at the civic center for the meeting. They were members of the Southwest Workers Union, which opposes San Antonio's City Public Service (CPS) partnership in STP.

When NRC opened the meeting to public comments, it got a mix of several local officials who spoke to the benefits that STP has given Matagorda County and people from different organizations that oppose NRC granting STP a permit to build the two new reactors.

Matagorda County Sheriff James Mitchell told the NRC officials that STP goal is to protect people - "They've been doing that for 20 years." Noting the training STP has given law enforcement officers here, Mitchell said the city-county combined SWAT team's certification came from STP.

Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik said STP has "brought a culture of excellence and community spirit" to Matagorda County, noting that STP employees serve on city councils and school boards in the communities where they live.

Knapik said STP's units 3 and 4 is a $64 billion investment in the county, as are the 800 permanent jobs the units will bring.

"Let's talk about the environment," said Mitch Thames, president of Bay City Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture.

He cited Matagorda County's status of winning the Audubon's North American Christmas Bird Count nine of past 10 years - with 236 species spotted in the most recent survey here - as evidence of STP's environmental impact.

Thames followed up by touting the county's excellent fishing and water-fowl hunting.

Other officials supporting STP's permit application were: State Rep. Mike O'Day; Palacios Mayor Joe Morton; D.C. Dunham, executive director of Bay City Community Development Corporation; and Owen Bludau, executive director of Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation.

While several people also spoke in opposition to building units 3 and 4, perhaps the most contentious was from well-known Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas Office.

Smith took issue with the NRC continuing the environmental review, while the safety review is on hold.

Smith said the NRC was allowing STP to gather more information for its safety review, while the commission had a Feb. 18 deadline on comments to the environmental and safety scoping process, and a Feb. 26 cutoff on intervening.

Smith and other opponents of the units also spoke about the impact of uranium mining in Kleberg and Karnes counties, the state's overall lack of radioactive waste storage and the climate's change on future river flows.

"Radioactive waste is the real bugaboo in the room that no one wants to talk about," said Cyrus Reed, with the Sierra Club in Austin. "Where does it come from and what is the full impact?"

Also speaking against the plant were: Susan Dancer, with Matagorda County Citizens for Nuclear Industry Accountability; Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition; and members of the Southwest Workers Union.

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