Revocation of water permit may delay third reactor, groups say

A Richmond court's revocation of a water permit key to operating the North Anna nuclear power station may delay construction of a third nuclear reactor, environmental groups claimed on Feb. 23. 

 

 

By CARLOS SANTOS

Published: February 24, 2009

A Richmond court's revocation of a water permit key to operating the North Anna nuclear power station may delay construction of a third nuclear reactor, environmental groups claimed yesterday.

Judge Margaret Spencer of Richmond Circuit Court ruled on Friday that Dominion Virginia Power's water-quality permit violates the federal Clean Water Act and remanded the permit to the Virginia State Water Control Board for review.

The permit allows the power company to dump heated water from its North Anna power station into cooling lagoons at Lake Anna.

"It's difficult to square the permit with state and federal law," which prohibits thermal pollution in public waters, said Louis Zeller, science director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. The league contested the permit.

Zeller said the ruling has dealt a blow to the power company's plans to build a third nuclear reactor at the plant in Mineral in Louisa County.

Virginia Power will appeal the ruling, said Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for the company. He also said he does not believe the ruling would affect construction of a third reactor if the company decides it should be built.

Norvelle said the company believes the federal Clean Air Act does not apply to North Anna because the heated water, which is used in a cooling process in the nuclear plant, flows into a private body of water owned by Virginia Power.

"The lagoons are built to do exactly what they are doing,'' Norvelle said in discounting the idea of thermal pollution. "We believe that at the end of the day, the lower court's decision will be reversed, and we'll have our permit."

Norvelle said the ruling will not affect the current operation of the North Anna plant.

Zeller, however, called the ruling clear cut.

Some residents of Lake Anna also have raised concerns that another nuclear reactor, entailing the need for more cooling water, would raise temperatures in the lagoons to even higher levels. Some residents live along the lagoons, which are located on what is known as the "hot side" of the lake.

Some environmental groups are opposed to the construction of a third nuclear reactor. Jerry Rosenthal, a Louisa resident and anti-nuclear activist with the People's Alliance for Clean Energy based in Charlottesville, said another reactor will be too expensive to build. He also said issues of lowand high-level radioactive waste from nuclear plants have not been addressed.

"There are other excellent, faster, cheaper ways to get electricity," said Rosenthal, who applauded Spencer's ruling.

"The issue is thermal pollution," said Rosenthal. "This is clearly an important ruling and should go back to the NRC for consideration."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees all Nuclear-power plants in the country, has determined that there would be no adverse environmental impact from construction of a third reactor.