Dwindling fish won't change reactor plans

The National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking to add the Atlantic sturgeon to the federal Endangered Species List. No sturgeon-spawning habitat has been reported near Plant Vogtle.

A proposal to add the Atlantic sturgeon to the federal Endangered Species List won't affect environmental studies already evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of a plan for new reactors at Plant Vogtle, according to Southern Nuclear officials.

A Federal Register notice published Oct. 7 said the National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking endangered status for five specific populations of sturgeon, including the south Atlantic group found in Georgia's coastal river systems.

A smaller species, the shortnose sturgeon, also lives in the Savannah River, and has been listed as endangered for four decades.

"Studies on both the Shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon have been conducted in the Savannah River, including studies in the vicinity of Plant Vogtle," Southern Nuclear said in a statement e-mailed to The Augusta Chronicle . "No sturgeon spawning habitat was identified near Plant Vogtle and the effects of Plant Vogtle on sturgeon was determined by the NRC to be small."

The draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the reactor project already took into account both species, so no additional studies will be needed the company said.

"Southern Nuclear is closely following the proposed listing of the Atlantic sturgeon and will work with the appropriate agencies to ensure the final listing decision is based on sound science using the best available data," it said.

The Atlantic sturgeon, which can grow to more than 10 feet in length, once thrived in eastern rivers until the caviar trade created a market for their roe in the late 1800s.