Somervell and Hood County officials last week again threw their support behind a multibillion-dollar expansion of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant during two public meetings in Glen Rose.
But some Lake Granbury property owners expressed concern that the proposed addition of two reactors, known as Units 3 and 4, would take too much water out of the lake to cool the new units and lower water levels as well as property values.
“We are not against (units) 3 and 4 or nuclear energy,” said Judy McHugh, president of the Lake Granbury Waterfront Owners Association. “We are against the detrimental use of Lake Granbury to cool those towers.”
The public hearing held by the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission drew more than 100 people to an evening session, while about 200 people jammed the Somervell County Expo for an afternoon meeting.
The meetings were attended by representatives of the plant’s operator, Luminant Generation Co. LLC, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. — the Japanese company that is designing the new advanced water reactors and has entered into a joint venture with Luminant — as well as elected officials and residents from Somervell and Hood counties. Each unit is capable of generating 1,700 megawatts of power.
NRC staff took comments and answered questions about the draft environmental impact statement that Luminant has submitted to the NRC. The federal agency has said its staff’s preliminary recommendation is that the combined licenses for Units 3 and 4 be issued.
The environmental impact statement covered the affected environment around the site, including land use, water and ecology. Nuclear plants consume a lot of water because they produce energy by boiling water into steam, which turns turbines to produce electricity. They use uranium fuel to produce electricity through nuclear fission. The water is then cooled in the plants’ towers, treated and released back into Squaw Creek Reservoir and Lake Granbury.
In its draft impact statement, Luminant said it used a “worst case scenario,” taking data from the hottest three months of the year and applied them for the entire year to calculate the new units’ potential water use. It did not factor in the Brazos River Authority’s lake level management or its own ongoing internal water use studies.
“We have to be conservative — that’s the way the nuclear business does things,” Rafael Flores, the plant’s chief nuclear officer, said. He noted that he owns lakefront property on Lake Granbury, too.
Luminant estimates the new units will need 103,000 acre-feet of water and requires that new water be purchased from upstream of Lake Granbury. About 40 percent of the water would be returned to Lake Granbury, Luminant said.
Its draft statement estimated that Lake Granbury is at “full pool level” — meaning the top storage level — about 57 percent of the time. With the new units, the lake would be at full pool level 46 percent of the time, Luminant said.
The amount of time Lake Granbury is two feet or more below full pool level currently is 10 percent; with the new units, that would rise to 25 percent. Luminant maintains that the average lake level impact with the new units will be seven inches.
However, Lake Granbury property owners said they have seen other studies that indicate much greater impacts on the lake’s water levels, which could affect recreational activities such as boating and fishing and property values.
“We have seen studies that indicate the opposite” in terms of potential water usage, McHugh said. “Quite frankly, we cannot take the chance that you could be wrong.”
Luminant said it has made ongoing average annual payments of $1.1 million for the construction of Lake Granbury for the past 38 years.
“When payments are complete, we will have spent $46 million to fully underwrite the construction cost of Lake Granbury,” Luminant Chief Executive Officer David Campbell said in a recent presentation to the Granbury/Hood County Economic Development Corporation.
All elected officials from Somervell and Hood counties, as well as people who work in real estate and tourism industries, spoke on behalf of the plant’s proposed expansion.
“Luminant has been a good neighbor to residents of Somervell County,” Taylor said.
Dwayne Griffin, Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2, added that Comanche Peak has been an engine for local economic development and that the expansion would add jobs and tax revenues. Luminant has estimated the project’s economic impact at $22 billion, making it the largest economic development project in the state’s history.
“This plant has been a great asset to the community and a steward of the environment,” Griffin said. “I strongly support their expansion.”
Local realtors Ymke Condy and Deedee Jones both took the microphone to say they supported the expansion, as did Patrick Condy, executive director of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
“This is the safest way I know to have energy,” Jones said. “Economic impact is very, very important not just for Somervell County but also for Hood County.”
“It’s very important for a tourist attraction to be is situated in a place where the local economy is vibrant,” Pat Condy said. “In that regard, Luminant up to this point in time has been a very fine neighbor.”
In addition to the potential for 5,000 jobs to be created during the expansion, Luminant has said it tries to be a good corporate citizen in Glen Rose and Granbury by being involved in civic activities and donating to charitable organizations.