Only Positive Remarks Presented Regarding Cooper Nuclear Station’s License Renewal
The U.S. Nuclear Regularly Commission held two open houses in Auburn seeking public comments on its preliminary conclusions that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude renewal of the operating license for Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville.
As part of Cooper’s license renewal application dated Sept. 30, 2008, NPPD submitted an environmental report. The NRC staff then reviewed the information and conducted an on-site review. Regulatory staff also considered comments made during the environmental scoping process, including comments offered at the public meetings held Feb. 25, 2009, in Nemaha County.
The draft supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) remains available until May 5 and was the subject of the public meetings held last Wednesday at Auburn City Hall. Identical overviews were presented that afternoon and evening, and then time was allotted to receive comments from the public.
License renewal includes both safety and environmental reviews. The NRC is currently seeking comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) related to the proposed renewal of the operating license for Cooper Nuclear Station.
The audience for Wednesday afternoon’s meeting involved a few members of the public, city officials and a number of employees with Nebraska Public Power District and Entergy. Andy Imboden, Chief of the Environmental Review Board with the Office of Nuclear Regulations, explained how the meeting was to proceed and introduced Bennett Brady, the Environmental Project Manager.
Regarding regulatory oversight, Brady explained that the NRC regulates civilian use of nuclear materials, including power plants. The NRC’s mission is to protect public health and safety; promote common defense and security; and protect the environment.
Environmental Review Findings
The Environmental Review determined the overall impacts to the environment including past, present and likely future actions. Preliminary findings were large cumulative impacts on aquatic resources, moderate cumulative impacts on terrestrial resources and small cumulative impacts in all other areas.
The NRC’s review included the study of 19 alternative energy sources, including an in-depth analysis of three of these:
• A supercritical coal-fired power plant;
• Natural gas-fired combined cycle units; and
• A combination of alternatives (combined cycle gas-fired unit, wind power, energy conservation).
Alternative energy sources considered by the NRC officials, but dismissed were: Coal and gas-fired generation at other sites, a new nuclear unit, purchased power, solar power and hydroelectric power.
• The coal-fired alternative is the least environmentally favorable alternative due to air quality and construction impacts.
• The gas-fire alternative would have slightly lower impacts due to air quality and construction.
• All other alternatives, capable of meeting the energy needs served by CNS, have greater impacts than the proposed action of license renewal.
Another alternative option would be if the NRC chose to take no action on NPPD’s license renewal and CNS would be required to shut down on or before its operating license is scheduled to expire in 2014. However, Brady said that option wasn’t even considered because of the important role which Cooper Nuclear Station plays in providing energy for NPPD.
The preliminary conclusion is that the environmental impacts of license renewal for Cooper Nuclear Station are not so great as to make license renewal unfavorable.
Public Comment Period
During a period reserved to receive comments from the public, two people spoke during the afternoon meeting.
Mayor Bob Engles said the City of Auburn and others with whom he is involved are very much in favor of Cooper Nuclear Station’s license Renewal. He also commented that Auburn is very fortunate to have two other NPPD facilities associated with Cooper Station located within it.
Glen Krueger, longtime administrator at Nemaha County Hospital who has since retired, spoke about receiving a great deal of cooperation from Cooper Nuclear Station personnel and departments on issues involving the hospital’s resources. He said he was very much in support of Cooper’s license being extended another 20 years to 2034.
The formal portion of the meeting lasted only about one-half hour because no one else in attendance offered any public comment.
If all goes as anticipated, the NRC may be approving NPPD’s license renewal application later this year.