Group looks to block PPL from increasing nuke plant output

Monday, 28 May 2007

Staff Writer

The group TMI Alert is looking to block a move PPL wants to make at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station – the nuclear power plant in Bell Bend near Berwick.

PPL has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to allow it to increase it thermal power (formally called an “uprate”) to 3,953 megawatts, 20 percent above the original rated thermal power (RTP) of 3,293 MWt, and 13 percent about the current RTP 3,489 MWt.

As part of that request, the utility has also asked the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to increase the amount of water it can draw for the plant’s cooling towers.

Right now, it pulls 58 million gallons per day. The request is for an increase to 66 million gallons per day, though the application states actual water usage will not exceed 65.35 million gallons per day.

Eric Joseph Epstien of TMI alert has contested the applications, the latest of a long list motions he’s filed opposing actions utilities take connected to nuclear power plants. His application for an NRC hearing makes three contentions.

Epstein argues PPL “failed to consider the impact of the proposed uprate on certain state and federal water use issues…and indigenous aquatic challenges,” as the motion reads.

Epstein’s first contention makes note of a number of environmental laws and claims PPL ignored them. It notes an accidental fish kill in 2005 that resulted from a large temperature increase in the river due to PPL’s taking a circulation pump offline.

Epstein’s second major contention is that PPL failed to disclose “damaging information” in its application with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. It hearing application refers to what it calls “corroding and poorly performing piping…,” and claims the utility didn’t include such information in its applications to SRBC or NRC. It also claims there are problems with “underground pipes and tanks which the current aging management and inspection programs do not effectively inspect and monitor.”

Epstein’s third contention is the increase “involves a significant increase in the consequences of an accident…” and an increase in the amount of radioactivity in the reactor core.

PPL will get its chance to answer Epstein’s assertions in briefs it files and/or during a hearing, should the NRC grant Epstein’s request.

The NRC has not yet responded

Source: Standard-Speaker, Hazelton, PA