Americans are saying that nuclear plant not-in-my-backyard
A Chicago-based nuclear utility is now clashing with a group of Texas ranchers over preapproval of a nuclear reactor site. The conflict involves the first application by a utility for approval of an entirely new site for a reactor without actually scheduling the construction of one. Exelon utility firm has filed the application, that has stated that it will not build on the site unless business conditions change. Meanwhile, opponents of the project figure that if they do not object now, they will never have another opportunity, and they say they have found unique problems with the geology of the spot. The Victoria County project, named for the surrounding county, is 13 miles south of the city of the same name. Exelon says that because of low prices for natural gas, and the lack of a price on carbon dioxide emissions, it does not want to build a reactor there now. Instead, it is applying for early site approval.
Getting site approval could take months or years in USA. If a company gets a site approved and later selects a reactor design that has been pre-approved by the commission, it speeds up the project. Under the old US system, the one used to build the 104 reactors now running, the government gave a utility permission to construct a plant, and as it neared completion, the parties spent months in hearings to determine whether it was safe to run. Under the old system, a utility could get permission to build but then needed to wait, after construction was complete, for permission to run the plant. If a company must wait while an investment stands idle is expensive. The public has hired geologists who are raising detailed objections about growth faults, which do not lead to earthquakes but do cause subsidence, as the basin that includes the Gulf of Mexico grows. A report, commissioned by an organization called Texans for a Sound Energy Policy, found that one fault had created a dip eight inches deep in a nearby road, according to the geology report, produced by a Colorado firm, John C. Halepaska & Associates. The report quotes from Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidance documents says that preferred sites are those with a minimal likelihood of surface or near-surface deformation. Another fault runs under the area staked out for the cooling pond of the new reactors. A shift could make the dikes around the pond collapse, according to the group, letting the cooling water drain away. The report also argues that among the 65 sites where nuclear power is now generated in the United States, only one, the South Texas Project, has any oil and gas wells on it. Old wells sometimes vent poisonous gas or combustible methane. Also there was simply too little water during drought periods to allow the reactor to operate. Locals do not want changes in a landscape that has not been substantially altered in generations.