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MARSHALL SURRATT press releases attacking Mattox on the jail issue. According to Rains, Mattox capitulated to Federal Judge William Wayne Justice \(actually, Mattox complied with a court charged that Mattox’s “1985 capitulation” resulted in the release of 6,100 hard-core criminals “onto our street.” Rains’s early attack on Mattox suggests that advisers of the recently resigned Republican secretary of state have identified Mattox as the Democratic frontrunner. V BROWNSVILLE Rep. Eddie Lucio has become the second Democrat to announce his intention to challenge Brownsville Senator Hector Uribe. Uribe, already gearing up for a race with Edinburg Rep. Alex Moreno, now finds himself in a three-person race. Lucio complicates the race for Uribe, who has to be considered the front-runner, since Lucio threatens to split the vote in Cameron County, where Uribe’s law practice is located. Moreno, who practices law in Hidalgo County, is expected to run stronger there. In the legislature, Lucio has been a workaday sort of Representative who hasn’t particularly distinguished himself in the two terms that he has held office. Demographics and candidates not withstanding, Sen. Uribe is going to be Comanche Peak Update BY JIM LACY AJULY 10 report prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nuclear power facility at Comanche Peak, near Glen Rose, according to antinuclear activists. The report was obtained by Betty Brink of Citizens for Fair On April 23 \(TO, Texas Utilities test of its own systems, Borg-Warner check valves released 9,000 gallons of scalding water from the plant’s steam generator into pipes not designed to contain the pressurized steam. This incident, which Texas Utilities neglected to report to the NRC until the middle of May, lasted about 15 minutes, according to reports the utility finally submitted. The NRC report of July 10, though, reports an accident caused by the same Borg-Warner valves it was brought under control. Texas Utilities has not yet confirmed this incident. In addition to these accidents, the NRC report details other problems with these check valves going back to 1985, including two incidents in April of this year. The NRC report concluded that the failure of these valves in the case of a nuclear accident, “could have resulted in the release of radioactive steam to the atmosphere.” Texas Utilities’ management response, according to the NRC, “did not reflect the style of proactive operations management philosophy normally associated with safe reactor plant operation.” Lon Burnam of CFUR described the management as “pisspoor.” The problems with Comanche Peak concern not only safety, however, they also concern money. Texas Utilities cannot pass the cost of construction \(TU Jim Lacy is an Obseiver editorial intern. Comanche Peak Nuclear Plant on to its consumers until the North Texas plant receives an operating license. In order to get this license, TU has gone to extraordinary lengths, like last year’s out-of-court $10 million settlement with certain intervenors and whistleblowers. As North Texas writer Marshall Surratt pointed out in a previous Observer article, the settlement made it nearly impossible for other groups, such as CFUR, to gain intervenor status to oppose the startup of the plant. According to Surratt, the settlement thus cleared the way for NRC licensing proceedings. Texas Utilities also bought out the minority partners in the Comanche Peak plant shortly before the trial of a lawsuit between Texas Utilities and the minority shareholders. Betty Brink of CFUR speculated that this move was calculated to keep information on the plant’s flaws out of the public arena. Now, with intervenors and minority shareholders out of the way, the Comanche Peak plant is on the “fast track” to NRC approval, said Brink. On October 2, the first fuel is expected to be loaded. A license for low-power operation is expected to follow. Once this license is granted, TU Electric can begin to pass on to the ratepayers part of the cost of construction and all of the cost of operation and maintenance. Brink believes the utility will then write off final construction costs as “operation and maintenance.” To the ratepayer this will mean, Brink said, a 50 percent increase in electrical rates. The Public Utility Commission is responsible for deciding how much of the construction cost can go into the rate base, and a pro-utility PUC can be expected to rule on behalf of Texas Utilities. The election of either Attorney General Jim Mattox or State Treasurer Ann Richards for Governor could soften the blow as both of them could be expected to appoint consumer voices to the PUC, said Brink. CFUR representatives Brink and Burnam both said they are frustrated and not optimistic about changes at the plant. “Unless we [CFUR1 succeed in our fight to intervene, the plant is likely to be licensed to operate by this fall the plant in the northern half of the state is probably the most poorly constructed in the country, and least monitored,” Burnam said. 1.2 AUGUST 18, 1989