Groups raise concerns with nuke plants’ design

Twelve national and southern environmental groups called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to delay action on proposed new nuclear plants, including two in Florida, because of design flaws that raise safety issues. Florida Power & Light Co. has proposed expanding its Turkey Point nuclear plant and Progress Energy has proposed building a new nuclear plant in Levy County.

The twelve groups, including the Green Party of Florida and the Southern Alliance of Clean Energy, released a report by Fairewinds Associates about the risk of corrosion involving the proposed Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design that would be used in the plants. The groups called on federal agencies to suspend the proposed reactor from plant licensing and taxpayer loan consideration. The proposed AP1000 steel containment liner is susceptible to rust, according to Arnold Gundersen, chief engineer at Fairewinds Associates.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission already was reviewing AP 1000 issues such as those raised by Fairewinds as part of its routine design certification process, said Scott Burnell, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The design certification process must be completed before the license applications for the Florida plants are approved, Burnell said.

A Progress Energy spokeswomwan said the utility is confident the AP 1000 is safe and that it will be used in the Levy County nuclear plant. There was no immediate response from FPL or Westinghouse. The design review should not delay the Florida plants because NRC licensing is expected to extend in to late 2011 for Levy County and into 2012 for the Turkey Point plant, Burnell said.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)