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Public interest coalition fights
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[MAY 4, 2004]  CLINTON -- On Monday a coalition of environmental and consumer organizations filed its reasons with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to indicate why the commission should deny Exelon's application for a permit to site a new nuclear plant in Clinton. The coalition seeks to ensure an objective evaluation of energy efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies and contends that approval of the siting of a new plant would conflict with an Illinois moratorium on new nuclear plants in the state.

Exelon is seeking an Early Site Permit, which would allow the company to "bank" the site for 20 years, during which time it can choose a reactor type and apply for a combined construction and operating license.

The groups opposing the Early Site Permit point to the National Environmental Policy Act's requirement that Exelon and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission examine all reasonable energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives.

"Modern, smart and clean energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, such as wind power, are better, cheaper, faster and safer options," said Shannon Fisk, staff attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest, based in Chicago.

The group's filing explains that modern energy efficiency technologies, such as are used in commercial and residential lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling, industrial motors, refrigerators and other appliances, can flatten electricity demand over the next two decades, while providing net economic benefits to Illinois. In addition, there are great untapped wind energy resources throughout the Midwest, which could become the cash-crop of the 21st century for local farmers.

"Illinois already has 11 operating nuclear reactors, more than any other state, as well as strong wind reserve sites in central Illinois and along the bluffs of the Missouri River. Why are we exploring the option of building a new nuclear plant instead of supporting the newly created wind farms in central Illinois? Some experts say the Midwest could become the Saudi Arabia of wind. Why aren't we studying how to make that happen?" asked Sandra Lindberg with the Illinois-based No New Nukes.

The coalition also argues that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should deny the Early Site Permit because it would conflict with an Illinois law that requires the government to approve a demonstrable means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste before any new nuclear plants are located in Illinois. Currently, 47,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel is piling up at operating reactor sites around the country because of the lack of a scientifically accepted and proven permanent high-level radioactive waste storage facility. The proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump in Yucca Mountain, Nev., appears to be more uncertain every year; most recently, the dump's 2010 opening date was cast further into doubt by the April 30 U.S. General Accounting Office report "Yucca Mountain: Persistent Quality Assurance Problems Could Delay Repository Licensing and Operation."

 

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"Entergy has made no provision in its application for the permanent management of nuclear waste from new reactors," said Kevin Kamps, nuclear waste specialist at Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "They are relying on a stretch of the imagination where confidence simply does not exist in federal policy today."

"Despite concerns about the lack of a safe and permanent disposal solution for our nuclear waste problem, the DOE is helping to fund efforts to build new nuclear power plants," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program. "Allowing more plants to be built when we cannot dispose of the waste they have already produced is like continuing to run the tap in a bathtub that is already overflowing with water. We're drowning and it just doesn't make sense."

Early Site Permit applications have been submitted by other utilities in Port Gibson, Miss., and Mineral, Va., as part of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 program. Taxpayers are funding half the cost of the Early Site Permit applications' preparation and review, estimated at about $14 million each. Further, as part of the NuStart Energy Development consortium, Exelon announced last week it is applying for $400 million from the government to help prepare a combined construction and operating license for a future nuclear plant. According to Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules, Exelon does not need to choose a site nor pick a construction date in order to apply for taxpayer dollars.

Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service are also filing contentions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the Early Site Permits in Port Gibson, Miss., and Mineral, Va. To read about the intervention for Clinton, please go to http://www.citizen.org/cmep/ILintervention.

[News release from
Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest,
No New Nukes,
Nuclear Information and Resource Service,
and Public Citizen]

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