Nuclear plan facing opposition on many fronts
San Antonio Express-News
Earlier this week, Energia Mia, a coalition opposed to CPS Energy's plans to add two nuclear reactors to the South Texas Project, urged members to attend a public meeting Wednesday to express their opposition.
"You can help stop the reactors that CPS is pushing, and which threaten to raise electric rates, use vast quantities of water and leave radioactive waste that poses health risks," wrote the Consumer Energy Coalition's Cindy Weehler in an e-mail.
But Wednesday morning, major opposition also surfaced when Mayor Julián Castro told the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board he would not support a big investment so CPS can keep a 40 percent stake in the project.
"I am not comfortable with the original proposal," said Castro, who is on the CPS board, and emphasized that CPS' level of participation is "not a done deal," and said he wants other options - both nuclear and non-nuclear - developed.
With him was City Councilman Reed Williams, who has pressed CPS for more information.
At every public meeting, city and CPS officials have run into a buzz saw of objections from ratepayers and business owners concerned about higher energy costs because, early on, CPS officials said several 5 percent rate hikes would be needed to cover costs.
Opposition has also built from environmentalists who fear radiation released by the plants keeping nuclear waste on-site, saying it might endanger the health of residents dozens of miles away. They want health effects studied in the areas around the two existing reactors.
Other concerns have been raised about the enormous amounts of water nuclear reactors use for cooling. They have pointed out that the Colorado River water currently consumed will have to double and that it could dry up during harsh droughts, forcing the reactors to be shut down.
At the editorial board meeting, CPS CEO Milton Lee and interim General Manager Steve Bartley acknowledged encountering stiff opposition at public meetings, but Bartley spun it as "very good input" that has prompted utility officials to find ways to address opponents' concerns.
Bartley also said that keeping a 40 percent stake in the project is negotiable, and that CPS officials were talking to their partner, NRG Energy, about ways to reduce CPS' commitment but still keep a hand in decision-making about the project. But the CPS officials' lack of specificity and details on options being explored seemed to also indicate that if the project survives, it is likely to change significantly.
Before Wednesday's public meeting, expansion opponents repeated their varied concerns to the press. And even though news of Castro's nonsupport was well-known, they raised the ante on new nukes.
"My call to our mayor, city council and CPS is, if your plan is so good, so solid, put it out to the voters," said businessman Juan Carlos García, as he called for a referendum.
"This decision is too important...," he said, adding that taking the issue to the ballot box was how we decided to "raise occupancy taxes so we could watch basketball," and "to put fluoride in our water."
cguerra (at) express-news.net