Groups ask U.S. to block work at TVA nuke plant

Groups ask U.S. to block work at TVA nuke plant

Associated Press • September 14, 2008

HOLLYWOOD, Ala. — Three groups are seeking to block plans to renew work on TVA’s unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northeast Alabama, where two old reactors could be completed and two new ones built.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Bellefonte Efficiency and Sustainability Team and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy asked federal regulators on Friday to suspend a request by the Tennessee Valley Authority to renew construction permits at Bellefonte.

The groups said TVA has not addressed the possible environmental impact of work at Bellefonte, along the Tennessee River about 110 miles south of Nashville.

The utility had no immediate response. TVA has not decided whether to finish the two existing reactors at Bellefonte, which was never completed, but it is considering such a project.

Ken Clark, a spokesman with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the government was in the early stages of reviewing requests to reinstate construction permits for the unfinished Bellefonte reactors and to possibly build two more reactors at the plant.

“There have been no decisions yet,” he said. “It’s all under consideration.”

TVA supplies electricity to about 8.8 million consumers in Tennessee and parts of six other states.

http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080914/NEWS01/809140374/1006/NEWS01

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Groups Challenge EPA Over Desert Rock Air Permit

Groups Challenge EPA Over Desert Rock Air Permit
Approval of coal plant threatens public health, air quality, climate

By: Earthjustice

Burnham, NM, Aug. 14, 2008 – The EPA scrapped a rigorous scientific review and pushed through approval of a severely deficient permit for the proposed Desert Rock coal-fired power plant, a coalition of Navajo and conservation groups contend in an appeal of the permit.

In a joint petition filed today, the groups detail how numerous deficiencies in the permit for Desert Rock threaten air quality and public health in the Four Corners region. The groups asked the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board to review the permit decision and grant an extension of time so they can thoroughly document the major problems with the permit. The EPA granted the permit July 31, authorizing construction of the 1,500-megawatt plant on Navajo land near Farmington, New Mexico.

Rather than complete the critical analyses required by law, the EPA was stampeded into granting the permit because of a lawsuit filed by Desert Rock developers, coalition members charge. The EPA granted the permit after Desert Rock’s developers sued the agency. The lawsuit was filed by Jeff Holmstead, Sithe Global Power’s attorney and former head of EPA’s air division under the Bush administration.

“The EPA is abandoning its mission by rushing a permit out the door for political expedience and ignoring the fact that it will emit massive quantities CO2 and other pollutants,” said Nick Persampieri, attorney for Earthjustice who filed the appeal on behalf of the groups.

The coalition said EPA’s permit contains a number of major deficiencies that violate federal clean air and public health laws:

* Failure to do a Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) analysis for hazardous air pollutants.
* Improper analysis of whether the plant violates national ozone standards.
* Failure to include emission limitations for carbon dioxide.
* Failure to consider impacts related to mining, disposal of combustion waste and impacts on the region’s scarce water supplies.
* No consultation with other agencies, as required, on the impacts of the plant on endangered species.

The groups are asking the Appeals Board to withdraw the permit and require EPA to complete all the required analyses, which they contend would ultimately lead to denial of or significant changes to the permit

“This permit is another example of the rush by the agency’s political appointees to hand out gifts to industry before President Bush leaves office,” said Dailan J. Long of Diné CARE, a Navajo tribal group that opposes the plant. “It ignores how emissions from Desert Rock will threaten air quality and endanger the health of people who live in the Four Corners region.”

Communities in the Four Corners already are suffering from dirty air, contaminated land and water from the two existing coal plants, as well as from coal mines, waste disposal areas, and widespread oil and gas operations.

If built, Desert Rock would overwhelm efforts of New Mexico and neighboring states to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and would further poison the air, land, and water of local communities.

Emissions from the coal plant would more than offset commitments to cut pollution from other nearby sources.

Burning coal at Desert Rock also would emit hundreds of pounds of mercury every year, increasing the already high levels of the toxic metal in local rivers and lakes, many of which are already subject to fish-consumption advisories. Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune systems of people of all ages.

Website: http://www.earthjustice.org

Environmental groups challenge Desert Rock decision

Environmental groups challenge Desert Rock decision

By Cornelia de Bruin The Daily Times

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BURNHAM — A coalition of seven environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice attorney Nick Persampieri, Thursday filed a challenge to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s July 31 decision to grant an air permit for Desert Rock.Desert Rock Power Plant is the 1,500 megawatt pulverized coal-burning plant proposed near Burnham, about 30 miles southwest of Farmington on the Navajo Nation.

“We feel EPA placed the public health and the environment at risk by not doing a number of required analyses before it issued the permit,” Persampieri said.

The challenge to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, D.C., enumerates five main points it states were not addressed in advance of the permit. They include:ozone level of 0.75 parts per billion of ozone to air much of the summer

  • Failure to do a Maximum Achievable Control Technology analysis for hazardous air pollutants.
  • Improper analysis of whether the plant violates national ozone standards — of special concern in San Juan County, where ozone levels hovered at the new federal
  • Failure to include emission limitations for carbon dioxide — an issue within New Mexico because of Gov. Bill Richardson’s 2005 executive order mandating greenhouse gas emissions be reported.
  • Failure to consider impacts related to mining, disposal of combustion waste and impacts on the region’s scarce water supplies.
  • No consultation with other agencies, as required, on the impacts of the plant on endangered species.”This was a politically motivated decision to issue the permit in response to Sithe’s suit against EPA,” Persampieri said. “EPA caved in to the pressure and issued the permit without doing the analyses.”

    Sithe Global is funding the plant’s construction. It will be operated by Diné Power Authority, an entity created by the Navajo Tribal Government.

    “We are also very concerned about mercury pollution, especially because the fish in the San Juan River are already compromised,” Persampieri said. “Advisories already exist for several lakes in the Four Corners area.”

    The groups want the Environmental Appeals Board to withdraw the permit and require the agency to complete the required analyses. The coalition contends the double actions ultimately would lead to denial of or significant changes to the permit.

    “This permit is another example of the rush by the agency’s political appointees to hand out gifts to industry before President Bush leaves office,” said Dailan J. Long of Diné CARE, a Navajo tribal group that opposes the plant.

    Frank Maisano, Desert Rock spokesman, said the latest challenge is simply more of the same from environmental groups.

    “They’re misconstrued, they’re misleading and in some cases they’re just plain wrong,” he said. “This is the most strict permit that EPA has ever issued.”

    The appeal seeks a 45-day extension of time, until Oct. 17, in which to file a supplemental brief with a complete and detailed description of each of the objections.

    EPA had no comment on the petition — the first of several expected to be filed.

    “We don’t comment on pending litigation,” said EPA Region 9 spokeswoman Margot Perez-Sullivan.

    Gov. Richardson and New Mexico Environment Department indicated on July 31 their intentions to challenge the permit decision.

    Challenges must be filed within 30 days of EPA’s decision, giving those preparing the documents until Aug. 30 to complete them.

    Thursday’s petition was filed by the Sierra Club, Diné CARE, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, WildEarth Guardians, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Cornelia de Bruin: cdebruin@daily-times.com

  • Groups seek AGs’ help in spent fuel fight

    Groups seek AGs’ help in spent fuel fight

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    Thursday, August 14

    BRATTLEBORO — A handful of citizen groups and residents of Massachusetts and Vermont are urging the Bay State’s attorney general to not give up on forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to change the way it evaluates the risks of spent fuel storage at Pilgrim, Indian Point and Vermont Yankee nuclear power plants.Earlier this month, the NRC denied a request by attorneys general from Massachusetts and New York that it consider changing its review methods.

    “We hope that we can count on you to take this matter back to the First Circuit so that the NRC will finally be forced to address the significant public health and environmental risks posed by high-density pool storage of spent fuel at plants such as Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee,” stated Deb Katz, spokeswoman for Citizen Awareness Network, which opposes the relicensing of Yankee.

    The AGs submitted a rule-making petition to the NRC that would have altered the license renewal process to include site-specific reviews of spent fuel pools, the tanks of water inside reactor buildings where nuclear waste is stored. Currently, spent fuel pools are evaluated on a generic basis, meaning the assumptions about waste storage are common to many nuclear power plants, requiring no special reviews.

    Many of the reactors in the United States have pools that are filling up rapidly. To meet the demand for more storage space, power plant operators are moving the oldest

    fuel out of pools and into dry casks. The federal government has promised to move the nation’s nuclear waste to a repository, most likely Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which has been held up due to environmental concerns and opposition from residents of the Silver State.

    At Vermont Yankee, technicians just finished moving about 100 tons of spent fuel from the pool to dry casks. Without the casks, Yankee would have had to shut down this year because its spent fuel pool would have been full.

    The AGs argued the pools are reaching their capacity and previous studies of the dangers of storing nuclear waste didn’t account for the increased amount building up at power plants.

    Because of the added waste, the pools have a greater risk of catching fire and causing a catastrophic accident, they argued. The AGs also argued that since Sept. 11, nuclear power plants are considered terrorist targets and an aircraft flown headlong into a reactor could cause the spent fuel pool to burn.

    The NRC didn’t agree with the attorneys general.

    Last week it concluded reactor buildings are strengthened structures that are not easily penetrated and security precautions taken after Sept. 11 by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security prevent aircraft from being hijacked and used as missiles.

    Because of the work of a pair of federal legislators, the states might not have to take the issue to a federal court.

    Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., are sponsoring the Nuclear Facility and Materials Security Act of 2008, which would require that the potential consequences of an act of terrorism be considered before a renewal or new license application can be approved.

    Security precautions for spent fuel storage would be upgraded and any new reactors built in this country would need to be designed to withstand the impact of a large commercial aircraft.

    In addition, the legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a long-term plan to distribute potassium iodide pills to communities within 20 miles of a nuclear power plant. The legislation would also require that some radioactive materials, especially those that could be used to make a dirty bomb, be equipped with location tracking devices.

    “Unlike the NRC, you, the attorneys general … and Congressman Markey and Sen. Clinton understand that the NRC has ignored new and significant information regarding the severe consequences and environmental impacts of spent fuel pool accidents and the increased risks of such an accident,” stated Katz. “Spent fuel pools like Pilgrim’s and Vermont Yankees are especially vulnerable to attack because they are located in the attic of the reactor, outside primary containment with the thin roof overhead.”

    The signers encouraged the AGs to push ahead because “Your hearing request in the Pilgrim and Vermont Yankee cases constitutes the single most important opportunity to challenge the risks posed by these above-ground pools.”

    The undersigned included representatives from Pilgrim Watch, C-10 Research and Education Foundation, the Citizens Awareness Network, Cape Downwinders, Clean Water Action, the Toxics Action Center and the board of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution.

    Individuals who signed the letter included David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Paul Burns of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and Richard Clapp, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

    Arnie Gundersen, a member of the oversight panel of Vermont’s independent review of Yankee, was another co-signer.

    Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

    Navajo Nation: Groups challenge EPA permit

    Navajo Nation: Groups challenge EPA permit

    ALBUQUERQUE — Environmentalists and Navajo groups who have been fighting a proposed coal-fired plant on tribal land in northwestern New Mexico have appealed an air permit granted for the plant.

    The petition filed Thursday alleges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to complete required analyses of the project, and instead was stampeded into granting the permit because developers of the Desert Rock power plant filed a lawsuit contending the EPA was taking too long.

    The petition to the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board in Washington, D.C., asks that the permit be withdrawn and that the EPA be required to complete the analyses.

    The groups contend those analyses would either lead to the denial of the permit or would require significant changes to it. They also want an extension of time, until Oct. 17, to document what they say are major problems with the permit. Currently they have until Sept. 2 to document concerns.

    “The EPA is abandoning its mission by rushing a permit out the door for political expedience and ignoring the fact that it will emit massive quantities of CO2 and other pollutants,” Earthjustice attorney Nick Persampieri, who filed the appeal, said in a statement.

    Diné Power Authority and Houston-based Sithe Global Power are partners in building the 1,500-megawatt plant southwest of Farmington. The air permit was considered a major hurdle, although an environmental impact statement also must be approved before construction can begin.

    Spokesmen for Desert Rock and the Navajo Nation said they expected the appeal.

    “It’s the same kind of tired arguments they’ve made for over two years now,” Desert Rock spokesman Frank Maisano said. “They’re misconstrued, they’re misleading and in some cases they’re just plain wrong.”

    The plant will reduce carbon emissions compared to a typical plant and will reduce water use by 85 percent from a typical plant, Maisano said.

    “This is the most strict permit that EPA has ever issued,” he said.

    George Hardeen, spokesman for Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., said the Diné Power Authority and the tribe have been waiting for the EPA to issue the permit for four years, and that the opponents have had time to voice their concerns.

    Hardeen also said pollution in the area could be eased if other power plants copied Desert Rock’s design.

    The state of New Mexico has alleged the EPA violated the federal Clean Air Act in issuing the permit and has said it will appeal. Marissa Stone, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Environment Department, said Thursday the appeal will be filed by Aug. 30, the deadline.

    The permit sets limits on emissions covered by the Clean Air Act, and the EPA has said it will set a new level of performance for coal-fired plants. The EPA, in a June consent decree, had agreed to act on the permit by the end of July in settling the lawsuit the developers of the $3 billion project filed against the agency.

    Thursday’s petition alleges the permit has major deficiencies that violate public health laws and federal clean air laws. The petitioners say the EPA failed to do an analysis for hazardous air pollutants; improperly analyzed whether the plant will violate ozone standards; failed to consider carbon dioxide emissions limits, the collateral impacts of mining or issues related to the region’s scarce water supplies; and did not do required consultations over the plant’s impact on endangered species.

    Those failures and others risk the public health and the environment, undermine the permit process and deprive the public of its ability to comment on the permit’s appropriateness, the petition claims.

    EPA officials said earlier this month their process was thorough and involved comprehensive technical analyses that will ensure that pollution levels safeguard public health and the environment.

    An EPA spokeswoman has said a review of the more than 1,000 mostly negative comments on the permit led to additional monitoring requirements.

    Environmentalists say Desert Rock would overwhelm efforts by New Mexico and neighboring states to reduce greenhouse gases and that plant emissions would more than offset commitments to cut pollution from other sources nearby.

    Shirley has hailed the EPA’s permit decision as much-needed to improve conditions on the reservation across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. He has said Desert Rock’s benefits — including $50 million in annual revenues to the tribe and thousands of jobs — outweigh environmental concerns.

    The petition was filed by the Sierra Club, Diné CARE, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Grand Canyon Trust, WildEarth Guardians, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.

    Sue Major Holmes

    Paradox Valley uranium plan has some worried

    Paradox Valley uranium plan has some worried

    Click photo to enlarge

    Cattleman George Glasier is trying to build a $150 million uranium mill… (The Associated Press )

    Cattleman George Glasier sees the next nuclear era amid the blood-orange mesas of the Paradox Valley, the same western range lands that hold a darker legacy from the last rush to pull uranium from the ground.
    Residents of this valley near the Four Corners region are getting an unimpeded view of the second uranium rush. Many are worried.
    Glasier, the one-time mining executive-turned-rancher, wants to build a uranium mill on cattle grazing land near his spread. It would be the country’s first in decades.
    The land is not far from the toxic uranium mines, now mostly abandoned, that serve as a reminder of an industry born of the Cold War.
    As the third global energy shock begins to drastically alter national economies, a potential shift in U.S. energy policy has moved to the forefront of the upcoming presidential election.
    Barack Obama and John McCain are crossing the country, with Obama blasting Republican energy policies and McCain advocating a large expansion of nuclear power.
    McCain last week became the first presidential candidate in recent memory to tour a nuclear plant. His energy proposals include building 45 nuclear power plants by 2030.
    Glasier also believes the time to return to nuclear power is now and thinks Paradox Valley, about 300 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, is well placed to reap the

    But the nation’s turn toward nuclear energy is worrisome to many, and in particular in Paradox Valley, it is the plan drafted by Glasier’s Energy Fuels Inc.


    The company has two mines that are close to being fully permitted, five parcels with existing but closed mines, about 45,000 acres yet to be explored plus the 1,000-acre Paradox Valley mill site. All of its properties are in Utah, Colorado, and Arizona.
    The proposed uranium mill would cost as much as $150 million to build, money that Glasier is still trying to raise. The company hopes to begin construction by 2010.
    Plenty of opposition has sprung up to the plan. Anna Cotter, 72, moved to the area in 1955 when the uranium industry was booming. Her husband sold mining machinery and her relatives worked the mines.
    But the valley has changed since then, she said. ”I personally don’t want that going on again.”
    Glasier’s mill would process uranium ore into yellowcake and ship it to a conversion plant in Metropolis, Ill. Industry officials say new technology such as enclosed radioactive waste containers has made processing safer than in the past.
    But the plan drafted by Glasier’s Energy Fuels Inc. has not convinced everyone. The people of Paradox Valley have seen nearby communities saddled for years with radioactive contamination. Uranium miners have suffered from lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and pneumoconiosis, a lung disease from inhaling dust.
    The same fight is brewing across the country as residents and environmental groups try to block new mines and processing facilities for the nuclear industry.
    From the 1940s through the Cold War, miners using Geiger counters staked out claims in areas with large uranium reserves, such as Ticaboo; Uravan, Colo.; and Grants, N.M.
    There was little to no government oversight of mines or mills, said Glasier, who spent 14 years working for a large U.S. uranium producer.
    When the Berlin Wall fell, uranium from weapons stockpiles flooded the market and prices plummeted from $40 a pound in the late 1970s to less than $10 a pound in 2002.
    The Three Mile Island reactor accident in 1979 and the 1986 Chernobyl disaster brought the nuclear industry to a standstill.
    Only one conventional uranium mill remains in operation today, near Blanding.
    There has since been a resurgence of support for nuclear power and a 15 percent increase in the world’s known recoverable uranium resources, according to the World Nuclear Association.
    Australia has the biggest supply of known recoverable uranium resources, about 23 percent. Russia has 10 percent and the United States has 6 percent.
    About 90 percent of the uranium needed for U.S. power plants is imported, much of it from Russia, Glasier said. The first application since 1988 for a uranium processing facility was filed in October with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
    Since then, the NRC has received 27 applications for facilities in Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico. Utah, Colorado and Texas have their own oversight agencies.
    Conventional uranium mining removes ore that is transported to a mill, much like Glasier’s proposed operation. In the other form of mining, workers inject a mixture such as oxygen blended with sodium carbonate into the ore body. The uranium is dissolved into the mixture which is pumped to the surface.
    In meetings to sell his plan, residents have vented their fears and sometimes their anger on Glasier. As momentum builds in the nuclear industry, so does the pushback.


    Groups are fighting plans to expand uranium mining, and last week environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit claiming that a program clearing the way for uranium mines in western Colorado is illegal.

    http://www.sltrib.com/business/ci_10150380