NEWS RELEASE Contact: Jim Warren
July 22, 2009 919-416-5077
Appeal Filed vs. New Nuclear Reactors at Shearon Harris
In disallowing evidentiary hearings, regulators show their partiality toward the industry, while ignoring cost, climate and safety concerns – despite the lack of a reactor design
Statement by Executive Director Jim Warren:
DURHAM, NC – Watchdog group NC WARN today called on the full U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reverse the agency’s licensing board decision throwing out our entire case against two new reactors Progress Energy wants to build at its Harris plant. The licensing board declined to even allow oral arguments, witnesses or evidence, and seems to be making up the rules along the way, largely because the reactor design remains years from even being completed.
In a brief filed today, attorney John Runkle calls for the full Commission to hear our 11 contentions, which we filed with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) a year ago. This is the first step in appeals by new-nuclear critics, which could wind up in the federal courts unless the NRC begins to show some independence from the nuclear power industry it is supposed to regulate.
Although the industry and NRC claimed the Westinghouse AP1000 was “pre-certified” in 2006, continuing changes in the design’s major safety components and operating procedures make it impossible for critics, the NRC and Progress Energy to assess safety impacts or the final cost.
The full Commission and licensing board continue pointing toward each other to handle the design dilemma. But as attorney Runkle wrote, “it does not make sense to pretend that a license for the proposed Harris reactors can be granted without knowing what the final design and operating procedures are. To do otherwise leads to an absurd conclusion.”
The reason for the licensing process, including public involvement, is protection of public wellbeing – both in terms of safety and escalating costs of construction and operation. In licensing hearings, the Commission has required that the agency address the probability of severe accidents and how to prevent them if at all possible, or to mitigate them if they cannot be prevented. This requires a fair and unbiased process; the licensing rules are already rigged to exclude intervention by watchdog groups, but in the Harris case, the licensing board has turned reason upside-down.
NRC staff agreed early on that NC WARN’s questioning about price tag was accurate, and Progress later revised its estimate upward. But nationally, estimates continue moving above $10 billion per reactor as the industry’s hoped-for “revival” grows more doubtful. The much-touted French industry has run into continuous problems building a “new generation” reactor in Finland,
a project now years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. A summary of our contentions:
- The design and operating procedures are incomplete, thus not in the license application.
- Progress Energy has greatly underestimated the cost of the proposed Harris reactors.
- The application does not fully address the water requirements of the proposed reactors.
- The emergency planning for the proposed reactors is deficient.
- Progress Energy’s ongoing 17 years of fire violations at Shearon Harris must be considered.
- Progress has not considered aircraft attacks and/or the impacts of fires from aircraft attacks.
- The proposed Harris reactors depend on dangerous high-density “spent” fuel cooling pools.
- The disposal of high-level nuclear waste is at least decades from being resolved.
- Uranium is not a reliable fuel source.
- The application does not address the carbon footprint of the reactor cycle.
With the top US energy regulator, Jon Wellinghof, dismissing the need for new coal and nuclear plants, and with the world’s top climate experts warning that dramatic emission reductions are needed within six years, Progress Energy should abandon the Harris project and join the crucial efforts to advance energy efficiency and clean power.