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Government Administrative Body Affirms Role of Citizens’ Groups in Licensing Hearing of New Nuclear Plant at Clinton

August 6, 2004

Government Administrative Body Affirms Role of Citizens’ Groups in Licensing Hearing of New Nuclear Plant at  Clinton

Board Allows Evaluation of Clean Energy Alternatives but Rejects Consideration of Energy Efficiency and  Illinois Moratorium on New Nuclear Plants

CLINTON, Ill. — Today’s ruling by a federal judicial board affirmed the participatory role of four public interest organizations in the upcoming licensing hearing for a proposed nuclear reactor in Illinois, petitioners Environmental Law and Policy Center, Public Citizen, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League said.

The board accepted one of the groups’ challenges (called “contentions”) about the application of Exelon for a permit to site at least one new nuclear reactor near the existing Clinton reactor.   This Early Site Permit (ESP) 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. 

“We are pleased that the board recognized the validity of our clean energy alternatives contention, as well as our right to participate in this licensing process on behalf of our members in Illinois,” said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program.   “But we are dismayed that the board rejected hearing vital issues related to radioactive waste, safety and security.”

The board denied the coalition’s argument that Exelon should consider energy efficiency as a reasonable alternative to nuclear power. The board also rejected the coalition’s contention that approval of the siting of a new plant would be inappropriate in light of an Illinois moratorium requiring the government to approve a demonstrable means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste before any new nuclear plants are located in the state.

“We look forward to presenting the case that wind, solar and other clean energy sources represent cheaper, safer and cleaner alternatives to new nuclear power,” said Shannon Fisk, staff attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, based in Chicago. “We are disappointed, however, that the panel declined to consider energy efficiency or the Illinois State Moratorium, which represents our State’s decision not to add new nuclear power until the waste disposal problem has been adequately addressed.” 

The board also rejected other contentions relating to concerns about site safety, security and waste disposal. The ruling came from a three-judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) appointed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the federal agency responsible for licensing and regulating the domestic nuclear industry.   The board will hear, in a courtroom-style proceeding, disputes arising from Exelon’s application.

“The nuclear waste conundrum is only further confounded by the NRC and DOE bid to promote and license more nuclear power without a scientifically proven and accepted long term solution,” said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Watchdog Project for Washington, DC-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “As the nuclear waste problem has defied scientifically based solutions for a half century, there is nothing ‘reasonable’ about the licensing board’s denial of our concerns about more from new reactors.”

Early Site Permit applications have been submitted by other utilities in Port Gibson, Miss., and Mineral, Va., as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nuclear Power 2010 program. Taxpayers are funding half the cost of the ESP applications’ preparation and review, estimated at about $14 million each.  Further, as part of the NuStart Energy Development consortium, Exelon applied for $400 million from the government to help prepare a combined construction and operating license for a future nuclear plant.

Public Citizen and NIRS also filed contentions with the NRC for the Early Site Permits in Port Gibson, Miss., and Mineral, Va.   To read today’s rulings at all three sites, please see “Court Opinions” at https://www.citizen.org/cmep/esp.