Wonder why Entergy’s still waiting? Fish kills, groundwater polluted with tritium, radioactive air emissions, refusing to fund local safety programs…
Wicked Local article writes:
Here’s one anniversary that nobody expected to see: Six years have passed since the Pilgrim nuclear plant’s operators applied for a two-decade extension of its license.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets a 22-month target for uncontested reactor renewals, and 30 months for contested ones. Licenses were never completely denied, and critics often accused the NRC of rubber-stamping them.
But Pilgrim blew through those deadlines years ago.
Even the Vermont Yankee plant, a source of seemingly never-ending controversy in its home state, emerged from its relicensing saga. The NRC approved a renewal for Vermont Yankee – a sister plant of Pilgrim’s, also owned by Entergy Corp. – last March. The request was submitted alongside Pilgrim’s in January 2006.
The Plymouth power plant has set a new record. Of the 71 license renewals approved by the NRC in its history, none has taken this long to complete. There are 14 other nuke licenses currently up for review, and Pilgrim’s has been in the hopper for longer than any of them.
The plant’s 40-year license will expire June 8. No one involved with the process – not the critics, not the regulators and certainly not Entergy – expected we would be staring at that expiration date after six years, with no end in sight.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan says his agency’s staff has long completed its review of Entergy’s submission. He says the three-judge panel overseeing challenges to Entergy’s license request has also wrapped up its work. But several of the panel’s rulings are still being appealed to the NRC, and it’s anyone’s guess when final decisions on those will come. Of course, there will be more delays if any of the appeals end up in federal court.
Nearly all of the appeals can be traced to one person. Duxbury resident Mary Lampert has been running the Pilgrim Watch citizens group almost single-handedly, a full-time job that doesn’t pay a cent. Lampert says she forced herself to learn the intricacies of nuclear regulations after her pro bono lawyer moved away in 2007 and she was unable to find another attorney willing to work for free. The case was too time-consuming for the law firms she approached, she says, or they had industry clients that could represent a conflict of interest.
At the age of 69, Lampert shows no signs of slowing. She still has several appeals of the licensing panel’s rulings before the NRC and she’s preparing another one. Lampert has battled with Entergy over issues as varied as the potential for deteriorating underground pipes to the effects that ocean winds might have on an accidentally released nuclear plume.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster last March raised new concerns, particularly because of similarities between the Japanese reactor and the one in Plymouth. The tragedy prompted Pilgrim
Watch and Attorney General Martha Coakley to push for a suspension of the relicensing until the lessons learned from Fukushima could be implemented. Fukushima also galvanized people who live in Plymouth and nearby towns: Lampert met Thursday with this growing coalition, a group of activists and concerned citizens who support a relicensing freeze. This doesn’t bode well for a speedy conclusion.
A permanent shutdown would have negative economic consequences. Pilgrim employs about 650 people, and regularly has hundreds of contractors there for various projects and refuelings. A spokeswoman says Pilgrim paid the equivalent of nearly $10 million in taxes to Plymouth last year and donated nearly $200,000 to local charities.
But the risk of Pilgrim closing for good remains tiny: After June’s deadline passes, the NRC will allow the plant to operate under the parameters of its current license until a final decision is made. If the agency’s track record is any indication, Entergy would get that 20-year license renewal – eventually.
No matter how the twists and turns of Pilgrim’s relicensing get resolved, one thing’s for sure: Nobody can say the NRC rubber-stamped this one.
Read more: After six years, operators of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth still waiting for license renewal →
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