South Texas nuke foe Lanny Sinkin returns

stp Evening falls at STP. (Chronicle/Johnny Hanson)

When the South Texas Project (the nuclear plant near Bay City) was being built in the 1970s and 1980s one of its most persistent opponents was San Antonio lawyer Lanny Sinkin.
As the voice for groups like Citizens Concerned About Nuclear Power Inc. and South Texas Cancellation Campaign he badgered regulators and the plant owners at every chance, getting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow arguments in its formal hearings on the competence of the owner, HL&P, and its contractors, Bechtel and Ebasco.
Tom “Smitty” Smith, the current head of the Texas office of Public Citizen, says Sinkin played a big part in getting reports on the poor quality of construction at the plant to see the light of day. That led to a number of improvements at the plant.
Sinkin’s opponents would put it another way. They accused him of unleashing “a blizzard of paper” in a mischievous and groundless attempt to thwart the project.

“He is just in the wrong forum with the wrong material and the wrong information,” said Maurice Axelrad of Washington, D.C. in a May 1985 Chronicle article.

pro_stp Nuclear pros: Mark McBurnett (Center), STP’s vice president of oversight and regulatory affairs, units 3 & 4, applauds after listening to Bay City Mayor Richard Knapik welcome the possibility of two new nuclear reactors during meetings in Bay City on Tuesday. (Chronicle/Johnny Hanson)

Sinkin now lives in Hawaii but he was back in Texas this week to help activists fire up their campaign against the planned expansion at the plant. He attended the public hearings in Bay City on Tuesday, sitting in a corner of the room typing away on a laptop.
Sinkin said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s application process has changed significantly from the 1970s and 1980s. The process allowing the public to intervene in the process is much more difficult he said, with a shorter time window for groups to sign up as interested parties (Feb. 25) and greater specificity required in their complaints.
“There’s no way I could do today what we did back then,” Sinkin said Tuesday.
He heads back to Hawaii soon but, likely to the chagrin of the plant operators, will be back later this year.
Our colleagues at the San Antonio Express-News (a fellow Hearst newspaper) also covered the event.