Some environmentalists are urging state officials to hold more public hearings before approving water discharge permits for two nuclear reactors under construction in the Midlands. The group says the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has admitted using bad data when it determined a safe amount of water for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station in Fairfield County.
Due to the nature of nuclear energy, 54 million gallons of water will be required each day to cool the superhot reactors. The water will not be contaminated in the process, but it will be heated to 95 degrees when V.C. Summer operators discharge it back into the nearby Broad River roughly 25 miles north of Columbia. Summer currently has an older reactor on-site that was commissioned in 1984.
Conservation groups worry the water, which is used to cool the reactor, will be too warm for the river’s wildlife once it is returned to the river. So far, the Broad has not seen fish kills that have occurred near other reactors, according to Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler. However, he says the risk is still there– and recent droughts may have actually increased it
“You can have cascading effects on an ecosystem just by tinkering with that system a little bit,” Stangler told South Carolina Radio Network, “This is a system that’s already stressed by high temperatures and low water in the summer.” He says it’s critical that the river have enough water to absorb that additional heat.