Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, plans to buy federal wetlands to build New Jersey's fifth nuclear power plant.

The company discussed its 4,000-page application during a public meeting Monday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md. The company is proposing building a reactor just north of the Hope Creek plant, one of three it owns on Artificial Island in Salem County's Lower Alloways Creek Township.

To build the plant, it must secure 84 acres of wetlands from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency currently uses the land as a dredge-disposal site, the company's report states.

The company applied in May for an early site permit, which is designed to resolve safety and environmental questions about the proposed location. The company has not chosen a reactor design and has not decided whether it actually will invest in a new nuclear plant.

The NRC's application review is expected to take three years.

The NRC hosted a public meeting last month over the proposal even before PSEG filed its formal application. Testimony was divided between environmentalists who opposed expanding nuclear power in New Jersey and local residents and politicians who supported the jobs and tax revenue a new plant would generate.

"We wanted to get the issue out there," PSEG spokesman Joe Delmar said. "One of the reasons we picked the location we did was it was next to existing plants. Any new plant would have similar impacts as existing plants. From an emergency planning standpoint, the plants operate under the same guidelines."

According to the 136-page environmental report, PSEG also plans to build new 500-kilovolt transmission lines and a new causeway to the island, filling in 45 acres of wetlands and temporarily affecting 24 acres more.

The company rated the expected effects on the environment based on three categories: small, moderate and large.

The only large effect was deemed to the local tax base, since the plant presumably would contribute more in local tax revenue. The power plant pays for all municipal services in Lower Alloways Creek Township, which as a result does not have a local-purpose property-tax levy.

The company found moderate effects to wetlands, to six potential archaeological sites along the proposed causeway, to farmland along the new transmission-line corridor and to local vehicle traffic during plant construction.

The new power plant would have a cooling tower, in keeping with federal regulations for new plants.

Joe Colaccino, branch chief for new reactors for the NRC, said the company worked with the agency for two years to address environmental issues before submitting its application last month.

The company traveled the globe in 2007 to study other reactors and determine whether it was feasible to build a fourth power plant on Artificial Island.

The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club said it would oppose any plans by PSEG to fill in wetlands, especially since the plant's owners in the 1980s agreed to restore wetlands instead of building costly cooling towers.

"We would vigorously oppose any wetland fill of that size along the Delaware bayshore," spokesman Jeff Tittel said. "The wetlands along the Delaware Bay are critical habitat to make up the massive loss of life from the failure of PSEG to have cooling towers. It's the height of hypocrisy."

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