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Air Deposition & Water Pollution

Of the many threats to coastal ecosystems, probably the least generally recognized are the many particulate materials that are deposited by distant smokestacks of industries and power plants. One reason why these contaminant sources are often overlooked is that they can be hundreds of miles away from the areas they adversely affect. But their distance from areas polluted do not diminish the potential harm caused by these sources. Cumulatively enormous amounts of nitrous oxide and sulfur oxide, the most common compounds producing acid rain, as well as mercury, a known carcinogen and threat to human central nervous systems, are released by power plants. Those most likely to be affecting coastal Georgia are in Alabama, South Carolina, and upstate Georgia - at least two dozen plants are in question.

A recent article in Coastlines, a publication of the Urban Harbors Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, explains that, "In some places atmospheric deposition is known to be a significant portion of the total pollutant load to coastal waters, in others it is a minor component, while in many its significance is simply not known."

There are reasons to conclude that under our current circumstances, the relative threat of air deposition in coastal Georgia is unknown, but precautions are warranted. EPA's National Watershed Assessment finds that all five coastal Georgia rivers cannot be rated for water quality because data is insufficient, including measures of toxic chemicals. We do know that throughout the Southeast, the Atlantic king mackerel has been listed for ╬consumption advisories' due to high levels of mercury contamination. Furthermore, the Atlanta-based organization, Citizens for Clean Energy warns that prevailing winds carry diverse power-plant pollution toward our region.

Indications are that atmospheric deposition is a problem for our region, but further research is needed. It is unquestionable that such pollution is a problem for some areas within our watersheds, and it is therefore likely to be moving downstream toward the coast.

The US EPA is soon releasing a handbook providing further information for evaluating the problem of air deposition. It will explain what the public needs to know about monitoring, modeling, and determining sources of airborne pollution. If further studies show air deposition to be an important source of contamination, EPA outlines the implications for the area's environment and the options available to managers, including a list of potential funding sources for offsetting costs of reducing continued environmental threats.

The handbook will be accessible on the EPA website page on air deposition, and may also be ordered in hard copy. For further information, see www.epa.gov/owow/ocean/airdep or call Debora Martin at (202) 260-2729.


Plant Hatch Nuclear Power Plant Relicensing
The Southern Company has created a high-level radioactive waste dump next to the Altamaha River and plans to re-license the aging nuclear Plant Hatch in Baxley, Georgia. On July 6th PlantHatch was touted to have "made nuclear history by successfully loading a certified multi-purpose canister in a dual purpose cask" according to the manufacturer of the casks, Holtec International. Two more casks were loaded later that month.

In order to avoid shutdown, the Southern Company removed some highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods from the facility's nearly full spent fuel pool and placed them in giant dry casks that were then moved outside and placed on a cement pad near the Altamaha.

Southern Company is trying to avoid future shutdown, ignoring the plant's mounting waste problem by applying for a license renewal. In May, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held public Environmental Scoping meetings. You can access comments at www.nrc.gov/NRC/PUBLIC/LR/scopingmtg.html. According to NRC timelines, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement should be released in January with public comments on the draft due in March 2001. Hatch's renewed license, if approved, will be issued March 21, 2002.

Threats:
  • Spent fuel is incredibly radioactive and will remain exceedingly dangerous for up to millions of years. The nuclear waste requires constant shielding to protect workers, the public, and environment from its damaging radiation.
  • The casks at Hatch are currently undergoing "real-world" testing in South Georgia since regulatory tests occurred primarily through computer modeling.
  • The two reactors are currently 22 and 26 years old. If the NRC approves the re-licensing application, the reactors can operate for an additional 20 years until 2034 and 2038. All the while generating more dangerous radioactive waste. No reactor in the U.S. has operated the full length of the original 40-year license.
  • Plant Hatch sits alongside the Altamaha River near prime agricultural areas, is two counties upstream from Georgia's Golden Isles, is in a floodplain, an earthquake zone, and a region that has been impacted by hurricanes and tornadoes.
  • NRC documents confirm that the plant has had repeated worker radiation exposures and serious accidents.
  • Though Southern currently claims that it intends to only store Plant Hatch's waste at the outdoor dump, it only takes a license amendment to allow Hatch to accept waste from other nuclear facilities.

Take Action:
  • Write the Governor, and carbon copy NRC Chairman Meserve, that Plant Hatch should not be re-licensed, South Georgia shouldn't be the ongoing testing grounds for a regional radioactive dump, and loading of spent fuel should stop immediately.

  • Send a brief letter to the editor of your local paper that highlights your concerns over this issue and carbon copy your elected officials.

  • Call or write your Public Service Commissioners and demand that Georgians be given the opportunity to purchase safe, clean, and affordable power. Ask them to support renewable energy projects instead of the Hatch scheme.

Governor Roy Barnes
  • 203 State Capitol Building, Atlanta, GA 30334
  • Fax: (404) 657-7332 Phone: (404) 656-1776

    Nuclear Regulatory Commission▄Chairman Meserve
  • US NRC, Chairman Meserve, 016C1, Washington, DC, 20555
  • Fax: (301) 415-1672 Phone: (301) 415-1750/1759

    Georgia Public Service Commission
  • Chairman Durden, Public Service Commission, 47 Trinity Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334
  • Call a Commissioner at (800) 282-5813
  • Visit the PSC website www.psc.state.ga.us and e-mail them your concerns.
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