Turner Clinic Continues Opposition to Vogtle Reactors in Petitions Filed Thursday
On Thursday, the Turner Environmental Law Clinic filed two petitions which seek to halt the expansion of a nuclear power plant at Southern. Co.’s Plant Vogtle in Waynesboro, Ga.
The petitions filed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenge the plant’s license and certification of its AP1000 reactor design. The clinic also filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, asking it to stay construction pending judicial review.
The proposed Plant Vogtle reactors would be the first new construction at a nuclear site since the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. While the clinic has opposed the Vogtle construction on several fronts, Thursday’s petitions say the Nuclear Regulatory Commission violated federal law by issuing the license without considering environmental and public safety concerns raised by the 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear site.
The petitions ask the court to require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement for the proposed reactors that would join the existing two at the site. The project cost is estimated at $14 billion.
The clinic represents nine environmental groups that have joined to stop construction. They are: Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Friends of the Earth, Georgia Women's Action for New Directions, North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Southern Alliance For Clean Energy and Nuclear Watch South.
“The environment will be irreparably harmed if construction is allowed to proceed,” said Mindy Goldstein, acting director of Turner Environmental Law Clinic. “Not only is the commitment of resources involved in building Vogtle 3 and 4 significant, but the impacts of construction to air, water and soil—including the project’s carbon footprint—are substantial.
“In the event the Court of Appeals finds the Vogtle license unlawful and the project is cancelled, these impacts cannot be reversed,” Goldstein said at Thursday’s press conference.
If construction proceeds without review and costly Fukushima-related backfits are required, “Georgia ratepayers and federal taxpayers bear the burden of the increased costs,” Goldstein said.
The clinic raised the issue of taxpayers’ burden, just prior to the commission’s 4-1 vote on Feb. 9, which approved Southern Co.’s plan. The project is underwritten with a $8.3 billion U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee.
Commission Chair Gregory Jaczko cast the sole opposing vote to construction—a move characterized as “extraordinary” by Reuters News.
“I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened," Jaczko said. "I believe it requires some type of binding commitment that the Fukushima enhancements that are currently projected and currently planned to be made would be made before the operation of the facility."
The clinic’s students, Patrick Polenz 12L, Trevor Brice 13L, Nick Chandler 13L, Christina Heddesheimer 13L, Anne Herold 13L, Ian Hall 13L and Ross Phillips 12L, worked with Goldstein on the current appeals.
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