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Strong resistance mounted against Fermi 3 new reactor proposal in Monroe, Michigan

An environmental coalition issued a media release on January 12, 2012, announcing numerous filings in response to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Fermi 3. The environmental coalition has opposed Detroit Edison's proposal to build a General Electric-Hitachi so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor" (ESBWR) since the nuclear utility's combined Construction and Operations License Application (COLA) to NRC in 2008.

In 2009, the coalition, comprised of Beyond Nuclear, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, intervened and won standing, as well as the admission of several contentions, before an NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB). One of those contentions concerns thermal and toxic chemical discharges from Fermi 3 which would worsen harmful algae blooms already running rampant in Lake Erie's shallow, fragile, and biologically productive Western Basin (see photo above left).

Environmental group filings submitted by the Jan. 11, 2012 deadline for public comment on the NRC DEIS for Fermi 3 included: the environmental coalition's comments and contentions; comments by Great Lakes United, a U.S./Canadian/Native American First Nations coalition of environmental groups; comments by CACC; comments by the Council of the Three Fires, representing the Walpole Island First Nation; comments by Lake Erie Waterkeeper, as well as an addendum; comments by Beyond Nuclear Launch Partner Keith Gunter; comments by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Michigan Environmental Council; comments and an addendum by Jessie Collins; comments by Beyond Nuclear; comments by the International Oversight Board; comments by Don't Waste Michigan on behalf of the environmental coalition interveners regarding evacuation, drinking water and additional issues; comments by the Great Lakes Environmental Law Clinic; comments by Pat Marida of the Ohio Sierra Club; comments by the IHM Justice, Peace, and Sustainability Office; and comments by Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

Comments by experts on behalf of environmental/health as well as consumer/ratepayer perspectives included: comments by coalition expert witness Joe Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project;  comments by Jim Welke; comments by National Lawyers Guild attorney Thomas Stephens, including on Walpole Island First Nation issues; comments by Ned Ford, consultant to the Sierra Club and expert witness serving the environmental coalition interveners in this NRC COLA proceeding; and comments by Frank Zaski of Franklin, MI, an expert on the "need for" (or, more accurately, lack of need for!) Fermi 3, who concludes: "There is no justification for Fermi 3."

The Detroit News ran an article on Feb. 6th entitled "Fermi 3 foes urge health analysis," about Mangano's findings.

In addition, comments by numerous concerned citizens, and individual environmental and environmental justice activists, representing many other groups and expert perspectives, were submitted: comments by Vic Mack; comments by Sierra Club member Tiffany Hartung; comments by Art Myatt; comments by Hal Newnan, of the South East Michigan Group of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter; comments by Kathy Barnes of Don't Waste Michigan; comments by Vincent Rossi; comments by Pat Lent; comments by Anabel Dwyer; comments by Kim Bergier; comments by Anne and Peter Bray; comments by Bobbi Filanda; comments by Cady Sontag; comments by Carolyn Doherty; comments by Chance of Berlin Township; comments by Corinne Carey of Don't Waste Michigan; comments by Christy Anderson; comments by Edward Podorsek; comments by Esther Marcus; comments by Ethyl Rivera; comments by Gayle Bettega; comments by Lance Englund; comments by Leona Duffey (V.P., Westland Homeowners Committee for Environmental Conservation; Sierra Club, South East Michigan Group, Conservation and Energy Committee; comments by Lisa Kasenow; comments by Marcee Meyers; comments by Sigrid and Ron Dale; comments by Kent Newman; comments by R.E. Lankford; and comments by James Gill.

Additional comments by opponents to, as well as proponents of, the Fermi 3 proposal were made at the December 15, 2011 afternoon and evening sessions of NRC public comment hearings held at Monroe County Community College. Refer to the NRC transcripts of the afternoon and evening sessions.

In addition, a PDF scan was made of some of the hard copy documents -- both pro and con Fermi 3 -- available as handouts or presented as testimony at the public comment hearings. By the way, Beyond Nuclear, as well as other environmental groups such as the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, had information tables set up at the pubilc hearing. So did Fermi 3 applicant Detroit Edison (DTE), the pro-nuclear power American Nuclear Society, and the NRC. NRC's press release about, and summary of, the December 15th meeting, as well as its slides shown at the beginning of both sessions is also available. NRC's sign in sheets have also been posted.

In addition, various local, county, state, and federal government agencies, as well as some elected officials, weighed in. These included: the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service; the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; the Monroe County Planning Commission; Michigan State Representative Dale Zorn; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5.

While the City of Monroe Water System -- which provides water from Lake Erie to 75,000 local residents -- expressed support for Fermi 3, it also expressed concerns about negative impacts on water quality from construction activity erosion and run off into Lake Erie, as well as about the potential impacts of a catastrophic radioactivity release; it also called for Detroit Edison assistance in upgrading and modernizing its radiological monitoring equipment.

DTE submitted comments in support of its Fermi 3 application, including engineering corrections and comments by Peter Smith.

NRC Staff responded to interveners' contentions on Feb. 6, 2012, as did DTE. DTE also included three attachments: an MDEQ wetlands permit; an NPDES permit; and an MDNR endangered species document. 

On February 13, 2012, the environmental intervenors' attorney, Terry Lodge of Toledo, filed a rebuttal against NRC and DTE challenges to the coalition's Jan. 11th proposed contentions. The coalition issued a media release.

Regarding a simultaneous, parallel proceeding, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) is "a cooperating agency with respect to the overall proposed Enrico Fermi 3 Nuclear Power Plant project." ACE recently issued a Public Notice concerning the "application by Detroit Edison Company for a Department of the Army (DA) permit to conduct dredging and filling activities and install structures associated with the proposed Enrico Fermi Unit 3 nuclear power plant in Lake Erie at Frenchtown Township, Monroe County, Michigan." A number of intervening and allied environmental groups have contacted ACE requesting public hearings on its involvement with the Fermi 3 proposal. For example, Michael Keegan of Don't Waste MI provided comments to, and requested hearings from, ACE.

ACE responded to Patricia Marida, Chair of the Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear Issues Committee, on Jan. 25, 2012. A nearly identical response by ACE was sent to Terry Lodge, attorney representing the environmental coalition intervening against Fermi 3. Even though ACE states "We conduct public hearings for the purpose of acquiring information or evidence which would be considered in evaluating the activities for a proposed DA permit action that may impact the waters and wetlands of the United States," it has not responded in the affirmative to Marida's, Lodge's, and others' requests for public hearings on this matter.

Watch this very same site for future postings in this proceeding, such as the NRC Atomic Safety (sic) and Licensing Board's rulings on these matters.