Judges Deny Request To Suspend Nuclear Plant Relicensing

By Sean Corcoran

Nov. 30, 2011

pilgrim nuclear power plant

The Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass. Opponents have raised concerns since the disaster in Fukushima, Japan. (Entergy)

See the WGBH News three-part series Power Struggle on the debate over relicensing Pilgrim

PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Federal regulators will not halt a review of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant's bid to extend its operating license, after a three-judge panel this week denied a motion by Mass. Attorney General Martha Coakley's office to stop the process.
In a June filing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), state attorneys pointed to new information about spent fuel pools and severe accident probabilities coming out of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Because three of the reactors that experienced problems at Fukushima are the same design as the Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth, Mass., the state argued that Pilgrim's application for a 20-year license extension should be put on hold until the Japanese disaster could be fully assessed.
But the NRC board said the relicensing process would continue. The NRC's position is that lessons learned from Fukushima will bring a whole host of changes to how the nation's nuclear reactors operate, but that those changes will be ongoing and not part of individual plant relicensing considerations.
NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan said that Coakley's office can appeal the ruling to the full five-member commission that oversees the NRC. A spokesperson for Coakley’s office said state attorneys are reviewing the decision before determining what to do next.
Pilgrim's 40-year license ends in 2012, and the plant's parent company has applied to the NRC to operate for another 20 years. That application has been pending since 2006 — making it the longest reactor relicensing review in NRC history.

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