Port Gibson officials back second Grand Gulf reactor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2004

[12/21/04]PORT GIBSON Port Gibson officials added their endorsement Monday to the possibility of Entergy Nuclear adding a second reactor at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station.

The existing plant on the Mississippi River in northwestern Claiborne County has the state’s only nuclear-fired boiling water reactor that generates steam to make electricity sold in several states.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the 1,800-resident town nearest the plant was unanimous in support of a second reactor.

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“It’s people that don’t live here that are coming in to protest,” said Mayor Amelda Arnold as city officials added their approval to that given by the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors, also unanimous, on Dec. 6.

Opponents of the new reactor have attended meetings in Port Gibson and in Washington, D.C. One allegation is that the taxes paid by the plant are distributed unfairly. Others deal with safety and cost efficiency.

Initially, all state-set taxes on the plant were paid to 12,000-resident Claiborne County. The levy brought in $16 million a year. In a compromise, court-approved plan, the state Legislature later allocated half the property tax to Claiborne and Port Gibson and split the remaining $8 million among the 40-plus other counties served by Entergy in Mississippi.

Mayor Amelda Arnold said conversations with members of the national media and Entergy officials convinced her to offer the resolution.

“There has been some question as to whether Claiborne County really wants a second reactor,” Entergy spokesman Carl Crawford said.

Most Claiborne County citizens support the efforts to build a new plant, Arnold said.

In addition to the tax revenue, Grand Gulf employs about 700 people. The company doesn’t know how much tax revenue a new reactor might generate because it doesn’t know how much a new reactor would cost, he said. Property taxes are based on valuation. The existing reactor and plant, which went into service in July 1985, cost $3 billion. Its operating license expires in 2024.

Entergy started the early site permit process with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission three years ago. If regulatory hurdles are cleared, Entergy will then be in a position to make a decision on whether to build.

“At this time, Entergy has not made a decision. We’re taking the first steps toward that by getting an early site permit,” Crawford said.

The early site permit could save the company as much as three years out of the eight years it would take to get the various regulatory approvals and build the plant, Crawford.

If the permit is approved, the company will have 20 years to survey potential demand in the region as well as ascertain that a new reactor will be the most cost-efficient way to produce energy, Crawford said. If Entergy decides to go with nuclear power, a new reactor could be in place by the end of the decade.

Half of the cost of the early site process, which totals $10 million, is being picked up by the federal government as part of a plan to encourage more energy diversification.

The next public meeting dealing with the project will be held Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Port Gibson City Hall.