WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule today that could force companies to retrofit once-through cooling systems at thermoelectric power plants, including nuclear and coal-fired power plants, with cooling towers. This requirement could affect 62 of the 104 reactors in the United States, which produce about 70 percent of all low-carbon electricity. Following is a statement from Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer.
“The EPA proposed rule is very detailed and will be studied closely. However, a one-size-fits-all approach to environmental issues isn’t in keeping with sound scientific analysis and will have severe and unnecessary regional economic impacts. No two power plant sites are the same and land available at many of these plant sites is unsuitable to building cooling towers.“A blanket requirement to force the installation of cooling towers is unnecessary and will put regional economies and tens of thousands of jobs at risk by potentially forcing scores of power plants to shut down over the next decade.“The EPA should consider the fact that the overall condition of the environment around these plants has been maintained or improved over the decades of operation and, in some cases, is better than before the plant was there by enhancing the biological diversity of the sites. Numerous scientific studies demonstrate that there has been no impact on the overall health of the fish populations near nuclear power plants. These include independent studies that have been reviewed and accepted by state environmental permitting agencies.“The EPA’s rule could inhibit the industry’s ability to make upgrades to produce additional electricity from existing reactors. More than 5,000 megawatts of power uprates have been implemented at nuclear energy facilities since the early 1990s, and another 3,000 megawatts are slated for NRC review by 2014.“The EPA has long said that it would take a common-sense approach to regulating cooling water intake structures that achieves environmental protection without imposing an unnecessary and untenable burden upon the electricity generating facilities. EPA’s actions may be contrary to that stated aim.“The bottom line is that if, after decades of operation, there is no detrimental impact to the overall aquatic environment near power plants the industry should not be forced to retrofit cooling systems. Absent measurable benefit, this action will only incur higher costs for consumers and the potential for unintended adverse environmental consequences.”