Thursday, February 28, 2013

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP: Fermi nuclear power facility facing legal complaints

Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013

FRENCHTOWN TWP. — A coalition of environmental groups opposing the expansion of DTE Energy’s Fermi nuclear power facility has filed new legal challenges with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The complaints came after the NRC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement was released Jan. 18.

“The worst-kept secret about Fermi 3 is that the numbers don’t work,” said Terry Lodge, an attorney for the coalition. “Now the price tag is pushing toward $20 billion, only the NRC, the nuclear cheerleader agency, still believes that the need for electricity in Michigan is spiking, when in fact demand is shrinking, year after year.

“Wind, photovoltaic solar and energy conservation are providing, today, the good-paying, sustainable jobs for our sane energy future, one that’s coming within our grasp.”

The group’s complaints include: a review of the adequacy of radioactive waste storage, the need for more electricity, no environmental review of the transmission corridor near the facility, no assessment of the effect on endangered species near the facility and no historical archeological review of the transmission corridor.

The coalition says all five concerns violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

The NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board previously agreed to hear other environmental concerns. A hearing will be held later this year.

“We don’t need it,” said Melvindale resident Ed McArdle, the Sierra Club of Michigan’s conservation chairman. “We can get power from other sources and they’re much more efficient and safe.
“We haven’t even explored energy efficiency and yet DTE wants to build this very expensive facility.”

DTE has said the facility, once fully operational, is the most cost-efficient, long-term option to provide power to the region, but environmental groups have contended the new reactor would pose an array of threats to public health and the Lake Erie basin ecosystem the facility abuts.
The coalition that filed the most recent complaints includes the Sierra Club, Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Don’t Waste Michigan and the Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario.

The original reactor at the facility, Fermi 1, was begun in 1957 but underwent a partial fuel meltdown in October 1966. After a shutdown, the reactor operated until September 1972 and was decommissioned in December 1975.

Fermi 2 opened in January 1988. Detroit Edison, a subsidiary of DTE, filed an application with the NRC in 2008 to construct a third reactor at the site.

DTE is repairing a reactor water pump at Fermi 2 and the plant has been running at reduced power since July and has been offline since Nov. 7. A DTE spokesman said there is no threat to the surrounding area because the affected area is on the non-nuclear side of the complex.

It’s not certain when the facility will return to operation.