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NRC Assures Governor: Local Nuclear Plants Are Safe

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Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant

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BOSTON (AP) — Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are reassuring state leaders that nuclear plants in and around Massachusetts are safe, even as they order inspections of the plants here and across the country.

Regional NRC Administrator Bill Dean met privately with Gov. Deval Patrick and members of his administration for about 90 minutes in Patrick’s Statehouse office Wednesday afternoon.

Dean said he updated Patrick on the agency’s best understanding of what’s happening at Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex. He also said he told Patrick that nuclear plants in the U.S. aren’t in peril.

“We believe that plants here in the United States are safe,” he said. “We have robust designs, robust operating systems.”

Massachusetts Energy Secretary Richard Sullivan, who participated in the meeting, told reporters that the review of nuclear power plants will include a self-inspection by operators of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth within 30 days followed by an inspection by the NRC within 90 days.

Sullivan said that NRC officials assured the administration that they will be able to be participate in the agency’s review.

“They certainly believe that all the plants are safe. They inspect and regulate these on a regular basis, an ongoing basis,” he said. “But again they are going back and taking a look just as a reassurance to everyone and again taking whatever lessons they’ve learned from Japan and applying those as well.”

The meeting comes amid heightened concerns about nuclear power. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, introduced legislation to overhaul nuclear plant safety.

The Massachusetts Democrat and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee said the legislation would impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdown.

The bill would also require that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can withstand and adequately respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other events that threaten a major impact.

Massachusetts lawmakers are planning an April 6 oversight hearing with operators of the Pilgrim nuclear plant and two other plants near the Massachusetts border: the Seabrook plant in New

Hampshire and the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

Senate President Therese Murray said the hearing will be overseen by three legislative panels; the committees on public safety, energy and the environment.

The Plymouth Democrat has also said the federal government hasn’t fulfilled its obligation to begin removal of nuclear waste in 1998, as required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

Murray said energy customers, including those in Massachusetts, have paid into the fund, which now totals $24 billion.

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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