The Somervell County Expo Center was packed on June 12. Citizens from Glen Rose, Granbury, Fort Worth and Washington D.C. gathered to hear what the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had to say about Comanche Peak's combined license application to build two more units. The nuclear power plant already has two units and is looking to build units three and four at the same location.

Thomas Bergman, deputy director for Licensing Operations, was the first speaker for the NRC. He previously worked at Comanche Peak as a project manager for Unit 1 in 1994. Bergman explained that Luminant would be applying for a combined license, meaning Luminant would apply for a construction and operation license simultaneously. The NRC then reviews all the information submitted, a process which could take three to four years.

"A 42-month license review would be a very quick review," Bergman said. "The process is very complicated and detailed. If nuclear power is going to be used, it is our responsibility to make sure it is done safely."

Stephen Monarque, NRC's project manager of the overall combined license application review, said they have not yet received Luminant's combined license application. The public outreach meeting was only the first step in a long process. They expect Luminant to file its application in September.

Monarque said the final NRC report would be open for the public to review. NRC keeps the process open and transparent, except when security issues or business trade issues are involved. He continued to say once NRC received an application from Luminant, a public hearing would be scheduled.

Once the combined license application is received, two reviews are conducted. One is a safety review and the other is an environmental review. Michael Willingham, project manager for the environmental review, explained that scoping activities would be conducted and the public would have 60 days to provide input for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is a detailed statement outlining possible affects on the environment. The NRC will then draft an EIS and schedule a public hearing. The final EIS will then be released with the NRC assessment.

The Comanche Peak combined license application will reference a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries design, the U.S. Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (US-APWR). The US-APWR is a new design that is still under NRC review, a fact that drew comments from concerned citizens. However, Bergman said a license would not be issued to Luminant before the new design is tested and certified.

Other concerns voiced by some of those present involved infrastructure needs or requirements. NRC said Luminant would be responsible for evaluating current roads and facilities. The public should bring those questions forward during the scoping activities.

Somervell County Judge Walter Maynard addressed some of those concerns.

"For the last 18 months, we've been working on a new emergency plan if we move forward with this," Maynard said.

Monarque said the safety implications are not yet known for having two reactors on the site.

However, the plant already owns enough land to accommodate the new units and still maintain the required exclusionary boundary. The exclusionary boundary includes a controllable area around the plant in cases of emergency.

More information on the NRC and the licensing process can be found at www.nrc.gov.