This guest post was originally published in the Gainesville Sun on October 29, 2012. Francine Robinson chairs the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility for the Florida League of Conservation Voters. SACE’s high risk energy organizer, Mandy Hancock, attended the Oct. 31 hearing referenced below. This piece has been amended to include links to pertinent information, including media coverage of that hearing.
Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in Japan, many nations reassessed their positions on nuclear power. They faced these questions: the future of nuclear plants that have already been built; those in the planning stage; old reactor candidates for de-commissioning; and the overall approach to energy generation.
The issues have been hotly debated in parliaments, the media and in the streets. As a result:
- Germany initially shut down 7 of its 17 nuclear plants, and the government has agreed to phase out all of the country’s nuclear installations. They will go offline by 2022.
- In Italy, 90 percent of the citizens voted decisively to abandon nuclear power for the foreseeable future in a June 2011 nation-wide referendum.
- Bulgaria cancelled plans to construct two proposed nuclear generators.
- Mexico stated that it will not build any new nuclear plants.
- The Philippines have declared that it will not consider the construction of any nuclear power projects.
- Switzerland will gradually decommission all of its nuclear plants. This decision followed the largest anti-nuclear protest in 25 years.
Among others, the following countries have no nuclear plants and have legal restrictions on the possibility of building nuclear power plants within their territories: Austria, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Greece and Ireland.
In the United States, after the Fukushima disaster, the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended a safety check of all 104 nuclear reactors to be completed within 90 days. Not too much later, he was no longer on the Commission and the safety-check was postponed.
Notwithstanding the global uproar about the dangers of nuclear power, we here in North Central Florida are being threatened by the installation of a proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County, our next-door neighbor, not many miles away.
Progress Energy Florida has proposed and received some green lights for this plant on some levels. But the plant has been legally challenged by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service and the Ecology Party of Florida.
On Oct. 31, there will be a pivotal judicial hearing on this project in Bronson, in the County Courthouse beginning at 9 a.m.
The case was filed against Progress Energy Florida, recently acquired by Duke Energy, the largest generator of electricity in the U.S.
If built, the Levy County plant will:
- Place part of Alachua County and others in the nuclear accident evacuation zone.
- Sit on 765 acres of wetlands.
- Be located above the Floridan Aquifer.
- Use up to 1,000,000 gallons daily from the aquifer, our drinking-water source.
- Routinely discharge radioactive pollutants into the air and water.
- Discharge radioactive, polluted water to the Gulf of Mexico, contaminating animal and plant species.
- Increase electric rates, in advance, for plant construction; the moneys will be kept by the company whether or not the nuclear plant is built!
The location of any nuclear power plant brings along public health and environmental risks. But the location of the proposed Levy County plant acutely and severely imperils freshwater wetlands, floodplains, outstanding Florida waters (Withlacoochee and Waccasassa Rivers), the Rainbow River, special aquatic sites, and will diminish our springs and our drinking-water resources.
All of us who have an interest in keeping our area attractive to business and tourism (Chamber of Commerce, Alachua County Tourism, et al);
All of us who care about a healthy place for our children, grandchildren and ourselves (residents of Alachua, Levy, Marion, and other affected counties);
All of us professionals who know the health impacts of routine emissions of radioactive products (physicians, dentists, health workers, scientists, et al);
All of us need to speak out to our friends and neighbors, to our political representatives and to the media.
And let us all be present at the turning point of the legal challenge to the proposed nuclear power plant next door. All of us citizens are welcome at the Oct. 31 hearing at the Bronson County Courthouse, and our presence will be duly noticed and made part of the record.
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