Meeting will focus on groups' qualms

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will conduct a series of conferences this week to discuss the admissibility of environmental groups' concerns about the planned addition of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The primary issues involve the approval of subtle design changes in the reactors that would be installed and whether there is space to store the 11,518 cubic feet of additional low-level radioactive waste that would be created each year.

Southern Nuclear filed its early site permit application Aug. 15, 2006, and later applied for a Combined Operating License to build and operate the two Westinghouse reactors on the Savannah River site 26 miles downstream from Augusta.

Beth Thomas, a Southern Nuclear spokeswoman, said the conference -- set for 9 a.m. Wednesday -- is designed to determine whether the issues are admissible for evaluation later.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said the design changes in the reactors will be subtle.

"It's not really Southern Nuclear seeking design changes, but they are purchasing reactors from Westinghouse, and it is a Westinghouse design application request that is incorporated into the license requirement," Mr. Hannah said. "They have refined their design over the last few years."

The conference will be held at the Sam Nunn Federal Building, 61 Forsyth St. S.W. in Atlanta. A videoconference will be held with a location in Maryland.

Southern Nuclear hopes to get approval for an early site permit this year, which would allow a combined construction and operating license to be issued as early as 2011.