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Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 1:17pm

Environmentalists Object To Plant Vogtle Water Use Permit

Environmental groups say Southern Company wants to take too much water from the Savannah River for two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. The power company is asking for a permit to withdraw up to 74 million gallons a day.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division will hold a public hearing on the permit request this evening.

Georgia Power spokesman Brian Green says the figure amounts to one percent of the normal volume of the river and is comparable to the amount used at Vogtle’s existing reactors.

But environmental advocates say it’s too big a share for one company. Sara Barczak of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says removing that much water will hurt people and industries that rely on the river.

Barczak also worries that the permit does not allow for drought conditions. “That’s when it really matters as to what is available in the river for all users, not just the power plants,” she says. “It’s not a drop in the bucket.”

Company spokesman Green says Georgia Power is “committed to being a good steward” of natural resources like the Savannah River. “We’ve optimized our cooling tower operations,” he says. “We’re doing all we can to minimize the impact of the water that we withdraw.”

Green says the plant recirculates the water, using it for multiple purposes in order to take less overall from the river.

But advocates feel the company could cut down on water use further by switching to a more efficient system than cooling towers.

Environmental groups say they will voice their concerns at tonight’s hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Augusta Technical College Auditorium in Waynesboro.