Make us your home page
Instagram

Levy County nuclear plant project clears environmental hurdle

The Levy County nuclear plant project moved a step closer to securing its operating license on Tuesday after a three-judge panel ruled against an environmental challenge.

Opponents of the proposed nuclear project had argued that the environmental impact statement for the proposed reactor did not fully account for the potential harm the power plant's water use would have on the aquifer.

The panel disagreed.

In a 145-page decision, the judges of the federal Atomic Safety Licensing Board rejected the arguments, saying that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission "has carried its burden of demonstrating that its (environmental impact statement) complies with the National Environmental Policy Act."

"We're very pleased with the ruling today," said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman of Duke Energy, which would run the plant. "We didn't expect anything different. We're going to continue pushing forward to get the (operating) license."

The next step: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is working to resolve issues related to the disposal of nuclear waste before it issues any new operating licenses. That process is expected to be completed in about a year and a half.

After that, the commission is expected to vote on the license for the Levy County project, now expected by the end of 2014. Duke Energy has said it will decide whether to go ahead and build the $24.7 billion plant after it gets the operating license.

The judges' decision Tuesday angered opponents of the Levy project, which would include two reactors on a 5,000-acre tract. While Duke decides whether to build the plant, it's collecting $1.5 billion from customers for planning and development.

The panel of judges "based its decision on unfulfilled promises by the state of Florida to monitor the wetlands during operation and correct the impacts if they occur," said Diane Curran, a lawyer representing opponents of the project. "Yet again, the government is punting responsibility for harm to the environment to our children and grandchildren."

Cara Campbell, chairwoman of the Florida Ecology Party, which brought the environmental challenge, said she was "flabbergasted" at the judges' decision. Campbell's group argued that the project threatens to deplete groundwater to levels that could lead to devastating wildfires; induce sinkhole activity; lower water levels in wetlands, lakes and streams; and cause the loss of trees and wildlife, among other things. In particular, the group says drawing the groundwater would harm the Big King and Little King springs, which provide water for manatees.

In addition, using 80 million gallons of water from the Cross Florida Barge Canal will draw saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico as far as 9 miles inland up to the reactor site for cooling towers, endangering freshwater habitats.

Campbell wondered whether pressure was exerted on the board to ignore the potential impact.

"This is why people don't get involved in civic engagement," Campbell said. "I could vomit. The ball is in the court of the people … to get off their butts and raise hell about paying for that nuclear plant that may never get built."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

Up next

The Home Energy & Utilities Subcommittee will hold a meeting at 8 a.m. today in the Knott Office Building, room 212, on Use of Nuclear Power in Florida: How it is Planned, Financed, and Constructed. The meeting is expected to include debate about the state's advance fee law that allows utilities to collect money from customers before a nuclear plant is operational.

Levy County nuclear plant project clears environmental hurdle 03/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.
  3. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project

    Health

    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    Construction is underway for the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute in downtown Tampa. This view is from atop Amalie Arena, where local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the first piece of what will be the new Water Street District. The USF building is expected to open in late 2019. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  4. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
[SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  5. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]