Feds Delay Deadline For Proposed Nuclear Plant Opponents

Opponents of two proposed nuclear reactor units near Bay City will now have more time to scrutinize the plan. The nuclear regulatory commission has suspended a deadline for hte public to officially file legal challenges to the expansion of hte South Texas Project. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams explains.

The original NRC deadline was in just a week and half. Opponents of the expansion plan say that was hardly enough time to review the 20,000 page document, which they say is still full of holes. It was submitted in November by New Jersey-based NRG-Energy, which owns the STP power plant. During most license application processes, opponents are able to look at a completed document and then respond to it. Cyrus Reed is with the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club.

"In this case what we were being asked to do on the nuclear plant was make our contentions, make our legal arguments, our technical arguments, our safety arguments on an application that wasn't even complete and hadn't been reviewed. There's no final safety analysis, there's no environmental impact study that's been done yet. It's a difficult process because you would have to base your contentions on an incomplete application that hasn't even been technically reviewed."    

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says NRG actually suggested the delay after hitting a snag with a vendor. The license application met initial guidelines when it was accepted in December, but the start of a more thorough review revealed some gaps. This is the NRC's Victor Dricks.

"The net affect of all this is to give interested parties, people in the community, activists, environmentalists or whoever wants to a little more time to study the application and make a request to the NRC that public hearings be held on it."

The first of those hearings was held last week in Bay City, about 90 miles southwest of Houston. David Knox with NRG says the delay is part of a critical review process and the company fully supports it.

"This is an opportunity for us to fully support the NRC and their review of our application and in the process, the public has longer time to comment. That is a win-win situation. We are looking at bringing this project in to the best that we can for the best design, on time, on budget and that part of it is including public comment.

Officials say the license review process could take three and a half years. The South Texas Project's two current nuclear reactors provide a good portion of the state's electricity.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...