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The Texas OBSERVER PUBLISHER, RONNIE DUGGER The Texas Observer Publishing Co., 1979 A journal of free voices We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerfill or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. The editor has exclusive control over the editorial policies and contents of the Observer. None of the other people who are associated with the enterprise shares this responsibility with him, Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them the editor does not necessarily imply that he agrees with them because this is a journal of free voices. Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Demo crat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. MANAGING EDITOR Linda Rocawich ASSOCIATE EDITOR Eric Hartman PRODUCTION MANAGERS: Susan Reid, Beth Epstein ASSISTANT EDITORS: Vicki Vaughan, Bob Sinderrnarin Jr. STAFF ASSISTANTS: Jeannette Garrett, Edward Humes, Matthew Lyon, Donna Ng, Anne Norman, Beverly Palmer, Martha Owen, Karen White, Harris Worcester CONTRIBUTORS: Thomas D. Bleich, Ave Bonar, Berke Breathed, Warren Burnett, Bob Clare, Jo Clifton, Bruce Cory, Keith Dannemiller, Jeff Danziger, Chandler Davidson, John Henry Faulk, David Guarino, Roy Harriric, Doug Harlan, Jack Hopper, Dan Hubig, Molly Ivins. Susan Lee, Tim Mahoney, Maury Maverick Jr., Dave McNeely. Kaye Northcott, Alan Pogue, Lois Rankin. Ray Reece, Laura Richardson, Ben Sargent, Lisa Spann, John Spragens Jr.. Sheila R. Taylor, Stanley Walker, Lawrence Walsh, Eje Wray, Ralph Yarborough BUSINESS STAFF: Cliff Olofson, Joe Espinosa Jr. ADVERTISING SALES REPRESENTATIVE: Rhett Beard, The Texas Observer Editorial and Business Office 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701 Published by Texas Observer Publishing Co., biweekly except for a three-week interval between issues twice a year, in January and July; 25 issues per year. Second-class postage paid at Austin. Texas. ISSN 0040-4519. 750 prepaid. One year, $15; two years, $28: three years $40. Airmail. foreign, group. and bulk rates on request. Microfilmed by MCA, 21 Harristown Road, Glen’ Rock. N.J. 07452. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to: 600 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. 741111P-V Information, please Austin At the moment, Texas generates none of its electricity in nuclear plants, but two are a-building and two more are far along in the planning stages. The biggest is the South Texas Nuclear Project going up near Matagorda Bay, which is slated to provide 5,000 megawatts of power eventually. Public criticism of this project has focused mostly on its huge cost overruns: a 1973 estimate that the plant would cost $1.006 billion has been revised repeatedly, and the latest price tag is $2.007 billion. The discrepancy, according to a consulting firm hired by the companies managing and building STNP, is primarily traceable not to inflation but to gross underestimation of the amounts of materials and labor needed to get the job done. Other problems have caused expensive delays in the project, which has fallen a year and a half behind schedule. Now, however, citizens and reporters looking into the records of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are finding disturbing suggestions that safety hazards at STNP may be as big a problem as cost. It’s hard to judge how much weight to assign to this evidence, but one thing is surethese reports are getting much less public attention than they deserve. Austinites, including the ones here at the Observer, have had the fullest account of STNP’s troubles, thanks to a lot of oldfashioned digging by Austin American-Statesman reporter Bruce Hight. But residents of Houston have seen little about all this in local papers, even though their electric company is the project manager and the plant is being built less than 100 miles Outright suppression of information, though, has been the work not of the city’s newspapers but of Francois de Menil, the new owner of Houston’s City magazine, who killed a STNP story by freelancer Andrew Sansom and City editor David Crossley. It was pulled after being set in type and sent to the engraver for the May issue; rescheduled for June, it was yanked again, this time for good. The piece has since appeared intact in Breakthrough, Houston’s feminist newspaper, and In Between, a Galveston biweekly. \(Breakthrough also carried an excellent piece by media critic Gabrielle Cosgriff on the affair at City and the sorry Observer have pursued the STNP story and brought the article The main question now is whether STNP can be run safely once it’s finishedin other words, whether the NRC should grant it a license to operate. Hearings on this question will be held soon, and the burden of proof is, as it should be, on the plant’s owners. More unanswered questions about the use of nuclear power keep cropping up. Some important ones concerning nuclear wastes came to the fore in this year’s Legislature, which almost opened Texas to nuclear dumping before legislators realized What they need, what all Texans need now, is information, not cant, about nuclear power. And the nuclear industry, its critics, and the state’s press owe the public their best efforts to provide it. L.R. Vol. 71, No. 13 July 13, 1979 2 JULY 13, 1979 Cover art: Andrew Saldaria \(STNP