PPL settles water use claims

Company will pay $500,000 for using too much at nuclear plant.

By Sam Kennedy
Of The Morning Call

September 15, 2007


Moving closer toward an expansion of its Susquehanna nuclear power plant, PPL Corp. has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle accusations that it used too much Susquehanna River water in 2001 and 2002.

According to the settlement with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, the amount of unauthorized water drawn as result of plant modifications was ''in excess of 100,000 gallons'' a day.

At the same meeting, the commission also set the two-reactor Susquehanna nuclear plant's maximum water usage at 66 million gallons a day. The most water the plant has ever used in a day is 58 million gallons, according to PPL spokesman George Lewis.

Resolving the allegations of excess water usage was a prerequisite to establishing a daily maximum, one of two main hurdles PPL must clear before it can expand the Susquehanna plant, Lewis said. The other hurdle is winning approval from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

PPL has already submitted an application to the NRC. It expects a ruling by year's end.

PPL wants to add another 200 megawatts of capacity to the plant's 2,400 megawatts. A megawatt is enough electricity to power 800 homes.

In agreeing to pay $500,000 to settle the water usage allegations, PPL admitted no wrongdoing, Lewis said.

Eric Epstein, who heads Three Mile Island Alert, a Harrisburg watchdog group that monitors the three nuclear power plants on the Susquehanna River, said $500,000 was not enough.

''Part of what you want to do is deter abhorrent corporate behavior,'' he said. ''$500,000 is not a lot of money to a company that made $860 million last year.''

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, an interstate agency based in Harrisburg, did not return phone calls.

PPL is also considering building a third nuclear reactor at its Susquehanna plant. In June, the company sent a letter informing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of its tentative plans.

Should PPL submit an application to the NRC, it would be the first from Pennsylvania since the state became, with the meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant in 1979, the place where the nation's rapid nuclear expansion came to a sudden halt.

sam.kennedy@mcall.com 610-820-6517

Source: The Morning Call