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I-Team: Low Lake Granbury Levels Raise Concerns About Nearby Nuclear Plant

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GRANBURY (CBS 11 NEWS) – No one ever thought it could happen there – A nuclear plant disaster in Japan with potentially deadly and lasting implications.

But could it happen here?  That’s what some people living near the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant are asking.  They’re worried drought and increased water use could put them at risk.

From a distance, Lake Granbury looks like the perfect, peaceful place to spend some time.  But look closer and you’ll see there’s real trouble.

Joe Williams lives on Lake Granbury where low water levels are more than just an inconvenience.

“What I’m concerned about is in case of emergency that we would have everything available,” Williams told us.

But people living near the lake aren’t the only ones concerned.  Wayne McKethan, Granbury’s City Manager, has raised concerns about safety to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRC).

“Right now we’re down almost 6 feet.” Wayne McKethan said.  “It’s an initial intake source for the nuclear plant.  That’s pretty important.”

Granbury’s neighbor is Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.  Joe Williams took us out on Squaw Creek Reservoir, which surrounds the plant and provides its primary cooling capacity.  The disaster at Fukushima, Japan renewed concerns for both residents and environmentalists.

“With the increasing sales of water downstream and the lowering levels of Lake Granbury, the ability of that lake to serve as a backup is now being diminished,” Tom Smith, Director of Public Citizen, explained.  “The question is how are you going to keep the lake cool in case of an emergency.”

We took that concern to the Brazos River Authority (BRA), the agency charged with regulating water levels.

“Lake Granbury really doesn’t affect the safety of that power plant because the water in Lake Granbury does the plant no good,” Brad Brunett, BRA Water Services Planning Manager, noted.  “Luminant has to pump that water from Lake Grandbury to its reservoir at Squaw Creek to be of any use to the power plant.”

But according to the bra’s own website, Lake Granbury does play an important role in providing cooling water for the nuclear power plant.

Luminant is the company that owns and operates Comanche Peak.  Annually, they pump out more than 15 billion gallons of water from Lake Granbury.  But they argue they’re not the reason for the low lake levels and there isn’t a safety issue.

“The safety issue at hand, as you can see to our right, we have a safe shut down pondment,” Rafael Flores, Luminant’s Chief Nuclear Officer, said.  “That water is used from a safety standpoint and it really has nothing to do with Granbury.”

But environmentalists and those living near the plant aren’t buying that argument.

“The enormous quantities of water we needed to cool Fukushima are a question we have to ask ourselves here.  If the worst case happens will we have enough water in Squaw Creek or Lake Granbury to actually cool down the waters and keep them under control,” Smith added.

The City of Granbury is taking its concerns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington D.D.  So far, the local NRC office says they do not believe there are any safety concerns at Comanche Peak.

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