BRADENTON, Fla. — The National Environmental Policy Act was violated when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear plant licensing, environmentalists have argued in a federal appeal.

The NRC failed to address the environmental implications of the two new nuclear units at Vogtle after adopting safety improvements recommended by the agency’s own task force following an investigation of the earthquake and flooding at the Fukushima plant in Japan last year, according to a recent brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Because the NRC failed to order an additional environmental study of task force recommendations before licensing the Vogtle units, the public was denied an opportunity to participate in the process, according to  a brief filed by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League Inc. on behalf of nine environmental groups.

The $14 billion project is under construction near Waynesboro, Ga., and will be the first nuclear power units constructed in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

Georgia Power owns 45.7% of the project while Oglethorpe Power Corp. owns 30%, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia owns 22.7%, and Dalton Utilities owns 1.6%.

MEAG, a public generation and transmission organization, is responsible for around $3.7 billion of the project’s cost.

Capital funding for MEAG’s portion of the project was largely secured in March 2010 through a $2.62 billion bond market financing at a net interest cost of 4.35%. The authority also has a $1.8 billion federal loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.

The project owners said the environmentalists’ licensing appeal “utterly fails to demonstrate that the NRC did not comply with NEPA [and] they have failed to make a strong showing that they are likely to prevail on the merits of their petition for review.”

The NRC completed a full environmental impact statement “including an analysis of the impacts of earthquakes, floods, and severe accidents from any variety of causes,” the owners said, adding that the environmentalists participated in that environmental review process.

“Immediate, substantial and unavoidable harm would occur should the Vogtle licenses be stayed,” according to the owners. They also said the NRC evaluated severe accidents such as Fukushima, and that available information did not alter the environmental analysis for the new Vogtle reacters.

The NRC approved the combined construction and operating license for the new units at Plant Vogtle on Feb. 9. Environmentalists filed their federal appeal on Feb. 17, and a date has not been set for oral arguments. They want the NRC to conduct more reviews of the plant.

Georgia Power’s costs related to Vogtle are about $6.1 billion. It received a 30-year, $3.4 billion federal loan guarantee.

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