2008-05-02 / Front Page

Proposed nuclear power plant project draws endorsements, some criticism

By SCOTT POWELL Ledger Staff Writer spowell@gaffneyledger.com

Louis Zeller, speaking on behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund, holds an antinuke sign Thursday evening while speaking at the public hearing. Louis Zeller, speaking on behalf of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund, holds an antinuke sign Thursday evening while speaking at the public hearing. The competing interests of economic development and environmental concerns clashed Thursday evening during a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing at Gaffney High School.

Duke Energy submitted a construction and operating license (COL) application in December as it plans to build a two-unit nuclear plant on a 2,000 acre site off McKowns Mountain Road in Cherokee County.

A total of 40 people signed up to speak at the hearing held by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the Gaffney High auditorium. About 150 people attended the meeting.

Public comments at the hearing will be considered by the federal agency as it does an environmental impact study on Duke Energy's proposed Lee Nuclear Station.

If it moves forward with the project, Duke Energy has estimated a nuclear power plant could generate up to 1,100 jobs in Cherokee County. This is in addition to other jobs produced by companies and suppliers that would locate here to support the nuclear plant.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Environmental Project Manager Linda Tello listens to a question Thursday evening at a hearing in the Gaffney High auditorium. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Environmental Project Manager Linda Tello listens to a question Thursday evening at a hearing in the Gaffney High auditorium. Will Bowers is a real estate broker in Gaffney who fully supports Duke Energy's plans to build a nuclear power plant here. He believes the project will have a positive impact on the county's future economic growth.

A licensed professional engineer, Bowers said he has seen the environmental impact of nuclear power stations while pursuing his love of fishing and boating in the shadow of Catawba Nuclear Station in nearby York County.

"I think nuclear power is the cheapest form of power. It is clean and safe for the environment," Bowers said. "It is really the only option we have, particularly with its use of renewable energy sources. Absent of a better solution, I believe nuclear power is the best way to provide for our future."

Mike Cherin traveled from his home in North Carolina to give a different viewpoint.

Living on a waterway that connects to the Broad River, Cherin said he is worried about the impact the proposed Lee Nuclear Station will have on his town's future water quality.

"I am old enough to remember the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. We were two to three days away from having a meltdown," recalled Cherin, who grew up near the Three Mile Island reactor. "My friends and I used to regularly joke that Hershey, Pa., could have ended up with radioactive chocolate. Thank goodness it didn't happen."

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense Fund, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Friends of the Earth were among the environmental groups that joined Cherin in speaking out against Duke Energy's proposed nuclear plant.

Resolutions endorsing the Duke Energy project were presented at the hearing from South Carolina's U.S. congressional delegation, Cherokee County Council, state Rep. Dennis Moss, and the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will receive written comments through May 20 on an environmental impact study that will be done on the Lee Nuclear Station site, said Linda Tello, an environmental project manager for the commission. Another public hearing will be scheduled in early 2009 in Cherokee County to present a draft copy of the environmental impact statement.

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