August 6, 2008

Exelon Says There is Enough Water

By Tara Bozick, Victoria Advocate, Texas

Aug. 6--A nuclear plant wouldn't come to town without the assurance of a water supply, Exelon Nuclear staffers said.

But that didn't stop residents from asking who would pay in the event of a worst-case scenario drought.

Exelon met with business owners, community leaders and residents Tuesday morning at the Victoria Partnership meeting at 700 Main Center because of concerns there wasn't enough water for the project.

"The issue always has been water," Victoria Economic Development Corp. president Dale Fowler said, beginning the meeting. "Where is the water going to come from?"

Exelon contracted with the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority for 75,000 acre-feet a year from the Guadalupe River, community outreach manager Bill Harris said. The plant would only use about 50,000 acre-feet of that a year, leaving the rest to flow downstream, but the company's water experts needed more as assurance.

"All nuclear plants use a lot of water, but they don't consume a lot of water," Harris said, adding the plant will recycle its waste water. The nature of the plant's design condenses the steam used to spin the turbines back into water for further use.

One resident asked what would happen in the event of a drought.

Water would fill the 6,000-acre lake, capable of holding more than 100,000 acre-feet, in two years, Joe Williams, Exelon's engineering manager for new plant development, said.

That would serve the nuclear plant's needs for two years, which should be enough to survive the worst of droughts, Harris added.

Fowler probed further, asking what would happen if the lake ran dry. Who would pay?

"Exelon would pay for it," Williams responded.

Because Exelon is a merchant plant, shareholders share that burden not the rate payers, Fowler explained, but added the loss in electricity to the grid could increase prices.

Ads in the Advocate, both in print and online, created by the Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance led by landowner John Figer, called into question the availability of water. Mayor Will Armstrong and Fowler both decried the ads as misinformation.

Figer was hired to lead the Alliance by some members of the O'Connor family. Other family members were not involved.

Armstrong called the ads and the mission of the Alliance as a "not-in-my-backyard sort of situation" and questioned if the ad buyers actually lived in Victoria County.

"They do live here," O'Connor family accountant Joe Bland responded to the claim. "So don't undermine the fact that we are here also."

Armstrong asked why some members of the O'Connor family were opposed to the nuclear plant.

The concern was for resources and a perceived discrepancy with GBRA as to just how much water is available, Bland said. He said he didn't plan to speak and came to listen to Exelon's answers to the water question as a concerned citizen.

As far as allocating water for Exelon hurting other economic development, Fowler said if Victoria didn't use the water for economic growth, other cities like San Antonio would find a way to do it.

Raul Villalobos, project coordinator with Agama advertising, agreed, even though he did have concerns about the environment and water.

"I think it'll be great for people here in Victoria," Villalobos said. "It'll boost our economy, that's for sure."


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