Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A few observations - North Anna Env. Impact Hearing

Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first public meeting dealing with nuclear power. As some you may already know, Dominion Power, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to possibly build another reactor at their North Anna reactor site. While I have been to many public meetings in the past, I have never seen anything like this before.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station is located on a man-made lake called Lake Anna. When the NRC finally approved this site for a reactor they created a cooling lake by constructing a dam on a local river. Today Lake Anna is a playground for Virginia, homes and businesses have sprouted around the lake creating a sustained community around the plant. Like many other reactors in the United States, many of those who work at North Anna live in the surrounding community.

When the meeting began, I tried to take notes on every speaker with the hopes of actually answering every concern and question but this is just not feasible. Instead I decided to take the words directly from opponents of North Anna and use a few points made by North Anna supporters to answer these issues.

Public Citizen, PACE, NIRS, Greenpeace, Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League all showed up for this meeting. Before the meeting even started, they held a rally in the school cafeteria to answer questions from the local community. All had key issues that they attempted to highlight, included in this:

  1. Increased lake temperature threatens the striped bass population in the lake.
  2. Increased water withdrawal endangers aquatic life in the lake.
  3. Decreased flow downstream of the dam threatens aquatic habitat.
I would like to take a few points from a gentleman who spoke on this topic. His name is Delbert Horn.

"I read on Public Citizen’s web site, that higher water temperatures will threaten the Striped Bass population in the
Lake. I was curious, so I read the Environmental Impact Statement. I learned the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries introduced Striped Bass to Lake Anna, and they have to restock 100 – 200,000 Striped Bass every year, at considerable expense, because the creeks and river that feed the lake just aren’t deep enough, and fast enough for spawning runs. "

You see, without spawning runs, a self-sustaining Striped Bass population just isn’t possible… regardless of Lake temperature.What’s interesting, though, is that Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, isn’t blowing the whistle on the State Government for supporting an artificial Striped Bass population. Instead, they filed a legal contention that Dominion will make the lake “less comfortable” for the 100 – 200,000 Striped Bass the State dumps into Lake Anna every year."

Mr. Horn went on to question a few points made by Lou Zeller, of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, that the death rates of children doubled post-start up of North Anna. (editorial note - this was probably the most confrontational portion of the meeting) Mr. Horn stated the following:

"[Zeller] claims the data suggests these children were harmed by radioactive emissions from the plant. Mr. Zeller referenced the CDC website as his data source, so I went online myself to check out his numbers … and I encourage all of you to do the same."

"While the Blue Ridge website says their death statistics exclude accidents, homicides, and suicides, what I saw at proved otherwise (Louisa County). Zeller’s “Before” numbers did correctly exclude accidents, but his “After” numbers did not exclude them. This is how Zeller’s death rates are made to “almost double.”

While Mr. Horn was not the only pro-nuclear resident in the audience it was obvious that he was one of the few that actually brought something other than talking points to the meeting. When Mr. Zeller took the dais to rebutt the points made by Mr. Horn, he stuck with the same contention regarding the striped bass population, completely leaving out his contentions about the dangers of North Anna. It makes you wonder if this "environmental movement" can actually back up the claims that they have made for years about the safety and environmental impact of nuclear power.

I have more to post on this meeting, but I want to thank Mr. Horn for sending me his speech.

**UPDATE** In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Horn is a Dominion employee. He made the statement not as a Dominion employee, but as a citizen interested in the issue.


Paul Swinburne said...

I worked on construction of the North Anna plant during the mid 1970's. The site and original design was for 4 reactors but because of economic conditions resulting from the first oil embargo only 2 units were completed. Thus the cooling lagoon and many other site facilities were designed for 4 units and thus there is capacity for additional unit(s).

PeterK said...

I am a friend of Delbert Horn and aplaud his efforts to support Nuclear Power. His example shows how careful checking of facts can often derail the environmentalists who feed of fear an public misunderstandings. When the facts are known Nuclear Energy is a clean and reliable source of energy which our county should take advantage.