2014-05-14 / News

Plant Vogtle water permit debated

By Roy F. Chalker Jr.

Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 is shown under construction. It and another for Unit 4 will be used to cool water used in the plant. Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 is shown under construction. It and another for Unit 4 will be used to cool water used in the plant. Environmentalist groups led the charge at a public hearing last week on Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s application to withdraw up to 74 million gallons of water per day from the Savannah River for Plant Vogtle’s Units 3 and 4.

The water will be used to cool the plant’s reactors and would be in addition to water already being drawn from the river for the existing two units. First, though, a permit must be issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division which held the public hearing as part of the process.

Calling the plant a “mindboggling water hog,” Glenn Carroll of Nuclear Watch South argued that the project isn’t even necessary.

“The new reactors are not even needed since Georgia Power can generate more electricity than it can sell,” she argued.

Tony Blaylock, a spokesperson for Georgia Power, said the amount of water to be withdrawn is reasonable and will be used for essential cooling purposes.

“The withdrawal represents only about one percent of the river ’s average daily flow,” he explained.

Most of the 20 speakers at the hearing made it clear that they were opposed to nuclear power in general, so the water withdrawal permit hearing was another opportunity to voice that opposition.

However, Herb Burnham, Executive Director of the Lake Hartwell Association, expressed concern about the lack of contingency plans for water withdrawal during extreme drought conditions. Burnham said that Lake Hartwell had suffered disproportionately during severe droughts the last few years, saying that “of the 11,000 boat docks on the lake, half were sitting in the mud.”

“We are all partners in sharing the water in this basin,” he added. “Clemson University will have completed a drought study of the river within the next twelve to fifteen months. We hope that study will be reflected in the permit when it is issued.”

Ben Turetzky, a resident of Lake Kiowee in South Carolina, suggested the possibility of the construction of an “offline emergency reservoir which could be used by the City of Savannah during a severe drought.”

Local residents speaking in support of the permit included Waynesboro Mayor Pauline Jenkins and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Roberts. Both pointed out Plant Vogtle’s safe and successful operation over the last three decades and the “civic responsibility demonstrated by the company over the years.”

Approximately 60 people attended the hearing, which was held last Thursday night at the Waynesboro campus of Augusta Technical College.

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