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Community supports expansion of nuclear plant

By adriana_acosta
May 7, 2010 at 12:07 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2010 at 12:08 a.m.

Clouds move in over the South Texas Project nuclear power plant  near Bay City. Expansion plans would make the plant the largest in the U.S., doubling the number of reactors to four and marked the first nuclear plant license application in nearly 30 years.

BAY CITY - The South Texas Project's chief executive officer felt humbled.

Matagorda residents attended the Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting last week and showed support for the construction of Units 3 and 4, two new nuclear reactors at South Texas Project.

"I am touched by the amazing support of this community," CEO Ed Halpin said.

Getting the licensing for the plant is essential, helping bring a better product to the area, he said.

The chief executive officer attended both public meetings at the Bay City Chamber of Commerce.

As part of the license review, the public is given the opportunity to voice concerns over the new units that are planned to be built starting in 2012.

"We are here to listen to the public," said Scott Burnell, public affairs officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The NRC has done a great deal of analysis, the report has been written and now the public is encouraged to voice their concerns, he said.

"This is the public's opportunity to let us know if we missed anything in the review or if there is new information that's come up since we did our analysis," he added.

The review serves to document the environmental impacts of building and operating the nuclear reactors. It also includes input from public, consultation and coordination with local, state and federal agencies.

The environmental review looks at water quality, ecology, land and air quality, socioeconomics and environmental justice.

Support came also from local political officials, as well as state representatives.

Texas House of Representative Randy Weber spoke in support of the new units.

"Nuclear energy must play a larger role in our state's energy future," he said.

Representatives from Congressman Ron Paul's office, as well the Matagorda County judge, Bay City mayor and residents from the area, were present to submit written and verbal statements to the NRC.

Those opposed to the nuclear plant expansion were few.

"The NRC has not done an adequate job in analyzing the need of the plan," said Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen.

Without a doubt, Texas is going to need some kind of new resources of electricity, he said.

"Many studies show that nuclear power is the most expensive way to meet our energy needs of the future," he said.

South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company submitted an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September 2007 for combined licenses to construct and operate two new nuclear units on its site.

Units 3 and 4 are scheduled to be built on the same site as Units 1 and 2.

This review is a combined review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and NRC.

"We would not be where we are today if it weren't for the positive support," said Halpin.

Publication of the final environmental impact statement will be released in March 2011.

"Everything that people said, the depth of it is great, and it is an amazing feeling of gratitude," he said.

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