Nuclear foes get two toe-holds on Comanche Peak

Opponents of nuclear power plant expansions in Texas have won the right to intervene in the expansion of the Comanche Peak plant near Dallas based on two points of contention and are waiting on a ruling for the South Texas Project near Bay City.
A panel at the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said plant operator Luminant will have to consider 1. how a severe accident at one of the two planned reactors would affect the other units and 2. consider how using renewable energy sources, natural gas power and advances in energy storage would affect the expansion projects.
This means there will be hearings related to those issues and, possibly, the requirement that Luminant conduct studies to that effect. It’s not yet clear if both sides will get to bring expert witnesses to argue the points or if it will just require reports from the company, which the panel then considers.
The groups had 18 points of contention to the expansion plan but the others were dismissed by the panel.
“The Environmental Report in Luminant’s application is seriously flawed,” says Robert Eye, an attorney representing the groups, in a press release. “The collocation of Comanche Peak Units 1 and 2 and the proposed Units 3 and 4 is never considered in light of various accident and radiological release scenarios. A radiological accident at one unit could cause collateral impacts and disruptions in operations at the other units, and Luminant should have considered this.”
A spokesman for Luminant said the dismissal of the other items “is a significant, positive ruling and we look forward to continuing to provide information to the Board. We are confident the process will confirm that the application to potentially expand Comanche Peak is acceptable.”
The groups include the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Public Citizen, Ft. Worth-based True Cost of Nukes and Texas Rep. Lon Burnam.
SEED and Public Citizen also filed a number of contentions in the expansion of the South Texas Project, including a challenge on the same issue renewable energy/natural gas/storage alternatives. While the approval in the Comanche Peak expansion is no guarantee of approval for STP, the groups are hopeful.
The also point out that the STP expansion application admits such means hadn’t been considered:

“Although individual alternatives might not be sufficient to provide 2700 MWe capacity due to the small size of the resource or lack of cost-effective opportunities, it is conceivable that a mix of alternatives might be cost-effective and may also provide a better environmental solution. There are many possible combinations of fuel types to generate 2700 MWe, and STPNOC has not exhaustively evaluated each combination.”

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