Claiborne supervisors back 2nd reactor at Grand Gulf

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 7, 2004

[12/7/04]PORT GIBSON Claiborne County supervisors on Monday unanimously endorsed Entergy Nuclear’s pursuit of approval for a possible second reactor unit at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station.

“From the board of supervisors’ perspective, look at the economy,” said District 5 Supervisor Charles Shorts, board president. “Where would Claiborne County be right now if not for Grand Gulf?”

Supervisors voted unanimously for a six-point resolution that included comments on nuclear power in general and the plant’s effect on county tax revenues. Among other things, the document “acknowledges the $8 million in property taxes paid by Grand Gulf Nuclear Station to Claiborne County makes it possible for all Claiborne County residents to enjoy among the lowest auto license tags and homeowner property taxes in the state of Mississippi and far below those of citizens of neighboring counties.”

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An Entergy Nuclear senior manager of business development, Ken Hughey, thanked the board for its support.

“This sends a very, very strong message,” he said.

Interviewed after the meeting, supervisors said the decision for the resolution was made by the board as a group and that the time was simply right to go on record as a group. Shorts and District 1 Supervisor Allen Burks both work at GGNS.

Supervisor Michael Wells, whose District 2 encompasses Grand Gulf, said it was important for the board “to show cohesiveness.”

“I think we need to get it done as early as possible,” he said of the construction of a second reactor.

Entergy has applied for one of two major licenses it would need to build a second reactor unit at the GGNS site, which has had one reactor in operation since 1985. The application is with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is scheduled to decide on it in October 2006.

If Entergy receives a license, it would have a 20-year option to apply for the second major license. That process would focus on construction and operating issues.

Opponents have spoken against Entergy’s application in public meetings here beginning in spring 2003. Paul Gunter of the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service has helped lead the opposition.

NRC staff held a public hearing in January on what environmental issues the commission should consider in deciding on Entergy’s application. Attorneys for the main opponents have appealed to the NRC a decision by a lower panel dismissing arguments that they should be allowed to appear before the NRC itself before it decides on the application.

The next NRC meeting in Port Gibson is set for April 22 to discuss the draft document being developed from the first meeting.

Opponents have claimed the county, 84.1 percent of whose 11,831 residents counted by the 2000 Census were black, is being discriminated against financially. Since Grand Gulf began generating tax revenue the Legislature has cut Claiborne’s share of it by about half. The remainder was distributed among governments in 40-plus other counties served by Entergy in Mississippi.

“It’s a discriminatory tax code,” Gunter said by telephone from Washington, D.C. “And there is no reason to believe the discrimination will discontinue with the expansion of the site.”

During Monday’s meeting, Claiborne County Administrator James Miller suggested the county develop a formal plan to demonstrate how it would be a good steward of any additional any tax revenue it might receive from any expansion at Grand Gulf.

Asked about the timing of the supervisors’ adoption of the resolution, Gunter said it “speaks to the political nature of nuclear power.”