Opponents challenge NH power plant license renewal

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AP (file)

AP (file)

Citizens’ groups filed a petition Wednesday to protest an application from New Hampshire’s lone nuclear power plant to extend its license for 20 years.

The NextEra Energy Seabrook Station has been operating since 1990. Its existing license runs out in 2030, but it applied in June to extend its license to 2050 under Nuclear Regulatory Commission provisions. The application is about 2,000 pages long.

The petitioners, who plan to testify at a public hearing on the matter Thursday, have asked the commission to suspend the NRC’s lengthy review process, which is not expected to be completed before 2012.

In the meantime, they’ve asked that the license extension process start no more than 10 years before the expiration date. Petitioners also say the license renewal process is premature because it can’t take into account key factors affecting plant maintenance, reliability and safety; climate change; technology; and future power needs.

“To get a permit for an action that actually isn’t going to be implemented for 20 years, in our view, places too wide of a time separation between the permit and the action,” said Raymond Shadis of the Friends of the Coast, based in Edgecomb, Maine.

“It’s like getting a permit to put up a 7-Eleven 20 years from now,” he said. The neighbors, the town, the planning commission would all question the wisdom of giving a permit when you don’t know what the surrounding conditions are going to be 20 years from now.”

Other groups that have joined the petition include Beyond Nuclear, based in Takoma Park, Md.; New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution of Brattleboro, Vt.; Seacoast Anti-Pollution League in New Hampshire; Pilgrim Watch in Duxbury, Mass.; and C-10 Research & Education Foundation in Newburyport, Mass.

The NRC says there are 104 reactors in the nation originally licensed to operate for 40 years. The NRC has approved license renewal for 50 reactors.

The Seabrook plant has more than 1,100 employees and generates electricity for more than 1.4 million families and business in the region. A University of New Hampshire study this year said 82 percent of residents surveyed supported the license renewal if the plant met regulations.

Plant spokesman Alan Griffith said the license renewal process is extremely rigorous and comprehensive.

“We have an outstanding safety and operating history that we know fully meets the requirements for license renewal under the NRC process,” he said. “As we’ve done through our entire operating history, we’re ready to address any issues or answer any questions that the public has at any time.”

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