Susquehanna River Basin Commission fines PPL Corp. $500,000

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission docked PPL Corp. $500,000 Wednesday for a six-year-old transgression and approved the utility's plans to increase output at its nuclear plant in Salem Township.

The fine is related to a 2001 production increase at the nuclear plant causing an increase in water consumption from the Susquehanna River that was never approved by the commission.

"It's really a settlement between the PPL and SRBC," PPL spokesman George Lewis said. "Our view was that additional amount of water we'd be using to complete that project didn't require us to get approval. SRBC felt otherwise."

The $500,000 fine will go toward water management projects sponsored by the commission.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing PPL's plans to increase electric production at its existing facility.

The two nuclear reactors produce enough energy to power about 2 million homes, with the increase the plant could power an additional 160,000 homes.

PPL is also trying to add a third nuclear generator at the plant, to increase production by more than 50 percent. That, too, is pending several approvals.

Groundbreaking of the third tower wouldn't begin until 2011 at the earliest.

At its Wednesday meeting, the SRBC finalized its water consumption agreement with PPL for its pending electric output increase.

PPL is able to draw up 66 million gallons of surface water from the Susquehanna River daily and up to 125,000 gallons of groundwater daily.

The plant has a maximum daily peak consumption, the amount of water pulled from the water and not returned to the river, of up to 48 million gallons.

Eric Epstein, president of Three Mile Alert, a Harrisburg-based advocacy group that monitors nuclear plants along the Susquehanna River, has been a vocal advocate for PPL to be fined since he found out about the 2001 upgrade a year ago.

PPL upgraded its electric output in 1994, too, Epstein said, but followed the approval process with SRBC then.

"We did not oppose them getting an upgrade," he said. "We just opposed them subverting the law."

Epstein said he hopes this fine will deter other companies from avoiding the approval process that is in place.

"The bottom line for me is this is the price you pay for flaunting federal law," he said. "Water's a precious commodity that we have to be judicious with and here's a company blatantly disregarding that ... It makes you wonder how many other companies are pulling from the river and not getting approval.

cjones@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2110

Source: The Citizens Voice