Friday, July 07, 2006

NRC Issues Supplement to Draft EIS for North Anna

The NRC issued a supplement to their draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) associated with Dominion's amendment to an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for the North Anna site. The amendment changed the design from a once-through cooling system (as the two existing units use) to a closed-cycle system that incorporates a cooling tower.

The supplement concludes

The staff's preliminary recommendation, in view of the environmental impacts described in the Draft EIS, and the impacts reviewed in this SDEIS in relation to the changes presented in ER Revision 6, is that the ESP for North Anna Units 3 and 4 should be issued. This recommendation is based on (1) the ER submitted by Dominion, as revised; (2) consultation with Federal, State, Tribal and local agencies; (3) the staff's independent review; (4) the assessments summarized in the Draft EIS and this SDEIS, including the potential mitigation measures identified in the ER and in both the Draft EIS and SDEIS.
I've heard some antinuclear groups claim that this change proves that their efforts can stop a new plant from being built, but I see the situation as proof that the new licensing process works. The entire point of the new process is to resolve safety, licensing, and environmental issues before significant capital is invested while still allowing sufficient regulatory and public review.

While the original once-through design was technically sound, especially considering that Dominion built Lake Anna to support four units, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and nearby residents had concerns about potential effects on the lake. Dominion evaluated the options and concluded that a re-design was a "reasonable accommodation." I'm sure the extra megawatts they'll get with the cooling tower doesn't hurt either.

So, to recap: Dominion submitted its plans, regulators and citizens voiced their concerns, and Dominion came up with a viable solution before a shovelful of dirt moved or concrete was poured. I'd call that a win-win situation.

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