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Published: 3/7/2013

DTE has until next week to rebut nuclear objections

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

NEWPORT, Mich. — DTE Energy Co. and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have until next week to formally respond to objections an environmental coalition has filed against the licensing of a proposed Fermi 3 nuclear power plant adjacent to Fermi 2.

The coalition’s five “contentions” include challenges to the adequacy of environmental review concerning radioactive waste storage at the plant, necessity for the plant’s construction in light of declining electricity demand in the area, and three issues related to review of a 30-mile transmission line corridor associated with the plant.

The petitioners — including Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don’t Waste Michigan, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, and the Sierra Club Michigan chapter — filed their objections with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on Feb. 19, starting a 25-day clock for DTE, the regulatory commission, and any other interested parties to respond.

Once it has received those responses, the petitioning coalition has seven days to add comments.

After that, NRC spokesman Viktoria Mitlyng said, the licensing board “will review the contentions submitted by the petitioners, may schedule a pre-hearing conference in case clarification is needed, and assess each contention to determine if it meets the criteria for a hearing.”

NRC regulations provide for a 45-day period for the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to decide if it will admit the contentions once a prehearing conference has been held, but also allow the board to extend that deadline.

The environmental coalition contends, among other things, that the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement accepted without question that low-level radioactive waste will be stored on the plant site for no more than 10 years, even though DTE has no assured site for permanent disposal.

The groups also protested the lack of environmental, endangered-species, or historical/architectural review for the transmission corridor, stating that 11 miles of the power lines’ route would pass through and disrupt possible habitat for the eastern fox snake. And they question whether the plant is needed at all to meet current electricity demand in Michigan.

All five issues represent “blatant National Environmental Policy Act violations,” according to a coalition statement.

“It is time to pull the plug on this nuclear boondoggle,” Michael J. Keegan of Don’t Waste Michigan said in the statement. “DTE must stop spending ratepayer and taxpayer resources by sending good money after bad. This fiasco has not broken ground and already they are behind schedule by at least 2 ¾-years.”

Guy Cerullo, DTE’s spokesman for nuclear issues, said the utility company has not committed to building Fermi 3, “but we are leaving that option open long-term” and thus proceeding with licensing the proposed plant.

“We are preparing a response on why we disagree [with the petitioners] and why we believe the contentions are inadmissible,” Mr. Cerullo said. “We continue to provide thorough and factual information to the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.”

Fermi 2, DTE’s 1100-megawatt nuclear plant on the Frenchtown Township site, about 25 miles northeast of Toledo on the Lake Erie shore, is licensed through 2025, and DTE has announced its intention to seek a 20-year renewal for that plant’s license, Mr. Cerullo said.

Several of the environmental groups opposing Fermi 3 also are fighting FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corp.’s 20-year license-renewal application for the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant near Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Davis-Besse’s license expires in 2017.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.



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