Nuclear Plant Safety and Relicensing Status in ERC States: Recent News

For a video recording of the June 2012 CSG/ERC Webinar entitled Nuclear Safety in the Northeast in Light of Fukushima, please click here.

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Federal Court Throws Cold Water on Nuclear Waste Ruling: The nuclear energy industry has just been dealt a blow — by a U.S. federal appeals court ruling that stated nuclear regulators did not fully assess the risks associated with allowing utilities to store their spent fuel onsite for decades longer than originally intended, Energy Biz reports. The U.S. Court of Appeals from the District of Columbia wrote that by stretching the time period from 30 years to as many 60 years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission failed to properly examine the environmental consequences of its actions. As a result of NRC’s earlier decision, some states sued, arguing that any leaks from the spent fuel storage pools or dry cask storage could harm groundwater supplies and potential land use. The winners included four Northeastern states — Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, along with the environmentalists supporting their cause. Energy Biz (6/11)

Union of Concerned Scientists Nuclear Power Information Tracker: follow link and click on icons for more information about any U.S. nuclear plant

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CONNECTICUT

Milestone

NRC Renews Millstone Nuclear Power Station Operating Licenses: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licenses of the Millstone Power Station, Units 2 and 3, for an additional 20 years. The Millstone plant is located about 3 miles southwest of New London, Conn. The licensee, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., submitted its license renewal applications on Jan. 20, 2004. With the renewal, the license for Unit 2 is extended to July 31, 2035, and the license for Unit 3 is extended to Nov. 25, 2045. NRC Press Release (11/28/05)

 MARYLAND

 Calvert Cliffs 1 & 2

NRC Renews Licenses for Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licenses for the two units of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant for an additional 20 years, the first license extensions granted to a commercial nuclear power plant. The Commission unanimously approved the extension of the licenses following a March 3 briefing by the NRC technical staff. Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. submitted an application to the NRC in April 1998 to renew the licenses for Calvert Cliffs Units 1 and 2, located in Lusby, Maryland. The current licenses expire on July 31, 2014, for Unit 1 and August 31, 2016, for Unit 2.NRC Press Release (9/17/10)

Md. Nuclear Reactor Knocked Offline by Hurricane Debris: A reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant remained shut down this morning as officials assess the damage caused when a piece of debris tossed by heavy winds damaged a transformer. A spokesman said as of 8 a.m. this morning that “Unit 1 is safely off-line.” A second reactor was working fine at 100 percent power, said Mark Sullivan, the spokesman for the Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. The Baltimore Sun (8/28/11)

MASSACHUSETTS

AG Appeals Decision by NRC to Relicense Plymouth Nuclear Power Plant for 20 Years: Saying that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission acted “arbitrarily” and “abused its discretion” when it relicensed the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station for 20 years, Attorney General Martha Coakley appealed the decision today, according to a press release from her office. AG Coakley first appealed to the NRC in December 2011 when the Pilgrim Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied the office a hearing to consider the implications of the Fukushima nuclear disaster for the Pilgrim relicensing proceedings, a decision the NRC affirmed. In May 2012, the NRC granted the twenty-year license extension for the Pilgrim plant. Today’s First Circuit appeal challenges the commission’s decision to grant the extension without first considering the relevance of lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident for the Pilgrim plant, whose design is similar to the units that failed in Japan. Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office Press Release (6/18)

Official Opposes Plymouth Nuclear Plant License: Six years after the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth sought to renew its license, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted Thursday to deny the plant the right to continue operating for another 20 years, the Boston Globe reports. His vote will probably be in the minority, and opponents of renewing Pilgrim’s license said they expect the full commission to outvote Gregory B. Jaczko, the controversial chairman who announced his resignation this week. Jaczko’s vote was widely seen as a protest of the commission’s stance on the Pilgrim plant. He urged his fellow commissioners to delay their votes while litigation brought by opponents of the plant remains unresolved and the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board continues to hear appeals. Support from the NRC while such issues remain outstanding is unprecedented, Jaczko said in a statement supporting his vote. The Boston Globe (5/24)

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Seabrook Concrete Remains an Issue: Members of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards’ License Renewal Subcommittee referred to Seabrook’s renewal application as a work in progress after a four-hour meeting Tuesday. Both NextEra Energy, the owner and operator of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, and staff members with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission presented information about safety concerns and how they are being addressed. NextEra said the micro-cracks due to alkali-silica reaction (ASR) on concrete structures at Seabrook Station are understood and manageable. But NRC staff members said they do not feel the plant has done enough to address ASR issues in the containment area, or in the 19 other structures at Seabrook it affects. Seabrook’s current license expires in 2030 and it is seeking a 20-year extension. Union Leader (7/11)

NEW JERSEY

NRC Gives PSEG Nuclear’s Three Reactors in Lower Alloways Creek Good Grades: PSEG Nuclear has received good grades for the operation of its three reactors in Lower Alloways Creek Township in 2011 from the federal agency which oversees the plants. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Tuesday evening presented its annual review of the reactors’ performance at a meeting in the township that saw little interest from the public. At the end of 2011, all performance indicators at Salem 1, Salem 2 and Hope Creek were in the “green”, or very low safety significance, category, according to the NRC. In 2010, the units, which comprise the second largest commercial nuclear generating complex in the United States, received the same top grades from the NRC. Besides a year of good performance at its plants, PSEG Nuclear received 20-year operating license extensions from the NRC for all three reactors. NJ.com (5/12)

Oyster Creek Reactor to Close by 2019: The Oyster Creek nuclear reactor in New Jersey will be shut down by 2019, at least 10 years before its license expires, in a deal with state environmental regulators that will allow it to operate until then without building costly cooling towers, its owner said on Wednesday. Former Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s administration had approved a draft environmental permit for the plant that would have required cooling towers so the plant would stop pumping hot water into Barnegat Bay. A similar debate over cooling towers is getting under way over the Indian Point reactors on the Hudson River in Buchanan, in Westchester County. The plant, the oldest operating power reactor in the United States, was built in 1969 and survived a tortuous process to win a 20-year extension of its operating license in April 2009 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The New York Times (12/8/10)

NEW YORK

Ginna – Indian Point 2 & 3 – FitzPatrick – Nine Mill Point 1 & 2

Cuomo Takes Tough Stance on Nuclear Reactors: One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top advisers met with the operators of the Indian Point nuclear plant last week and told them the governor was determined to close the plant. The meeting was the first high-level meeting between Entergy, which runs Indian Point, and the Cuomo administration. On the day of the meeting, lawmakers were in the process of approving legislation to streamline the siting of new power plants in New York, a step that makes replacing Indian Point and the huge amount of power it generates more feasible. The licenses for Indian Point’s two reactors expire in 2013 and 2015. The state can derail relicensing by refusing to provide permits related to the plants’ use of water from the Hudson River as a coolant. Last year, the State DEC rejected a crucial permit application from Entergy; the company is challenging the move. The New York Times (6/29)

Jepsen Opposes Relicensing Of Indian Point Nuclear Plant: Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said Thursday he is opposing the relicensing of two nuclear reactors at Indian Point in Buchanan, N.Y., “until a thorough and complete investigation is made of environmental impacts from continuing their operation for 20 years.” Jepsen said the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not assured plans for handling spent fuel, securing public drinking water sources or relocating a large amount of people in the case of an accident or attack. He filed his remarks Thursday with the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Hartford Courant (6/28)

New York State Wins Review of Nuclear Plant Accident Plans: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected a bid by Entergy, owner and operator of the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River, to reverse an order to complete legally-required analyses of the facility’s severe accident mitigation measures before it can be relicensed. In July, New York Attorney General Schneiderman’s office won that decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The Indian Point Energy Center is located in Buchanan, New York, a village in northern Westchester County approximately 35 miles north of midtown Manhattan. It is situated in the most densely populated region of any U.S. nuclear plant. Environmental News Service (1/4)

Cuomo Orders Safety Review Of Indian Point Nuclear Plant: Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered a complete safety review of Westchester County’s Indian Point nuclear plant after startling new information was revealed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC reportedly ranked Indian Point as the reactor with the highest risk of earthquake damage in the United States, even higher than the twin reactors in California’s quake zone, reports CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer. CBS News (3/16/11)

PENNSYLVANIA

Beaver Valley 1 & 2; Limerick 1 & 2; Peach Bottom 2 & 3; Susquehanna 1 & 2; Three Mile Island 1

NRDC Opposing License Renewal For Limerick Reactors: Following last month’s appellate court ruling, which called into question the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s claim that spent fuel-rods could be stored safely up to 60 years after a plant shuts down, the National Resources Defense Council has filed a motion with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board which seeks to put a halt to the license renewal process for both reactors at the Limerick Generating Station. The Exelon Corporation had initially requested a 20-year extension for both units of the Limerick facility during June of 2011, but they now find themselves amongst a growing list of nuclear facilities facing legal action in the wake of the court’s decision. Haverford-Havertown Patch (7/13)

PPL Finds Source of Leak at Pa. Susquehanna 1 Reactor: PPL Corp found the source of the small leak at the 1,260-megawatt (MW) Unit 1 at the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and will fix it soon, but it could not say when the unit would return, a plant spokesman said Thursday. The leak, which remained in the plant’s containment, posed no danger to plant workers or the public, PPL said. Meanwhile, Unit 2 at Susquehanna was operating at full power Thursday morning, according to the NRC’s plant status report. Reuters (6/21)

Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station Receives Utility Achievement Award from American Nuclear Society: FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp, announced that its Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station Unit 1 has been honored with the 2011 Utility Achievement Award for Best Performance by the American Nuclear Society. The award recognizes Beaver Valley Unit 1 for being the top performing plant among all U.S. nuclear plants for 2010. This is the second time Beaver Valley earned this distinction; the station also was presented the award for its performance in 2006. Firsst Energy News Release (12/1/11)

VERMONT

Entergy agrees to test well at Yankee: Despite concerns that testing of a drinking water well at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon could produce “misleading results that may lead to public confusion,” Entergy has agreed to resume sampling of the well, the Brattleboro Reformer reports. Yankee tested a number of groundwater monitoring wells since it announced in January 2010 that tritiated water was leaking into the ground under the plant. Two leak sources were identified and quickly repaired. Since Entergy stopped taking samples of monitoring wells, the state has been insisting in a series of letters that it continue the process. After meeting with a representative from the EPA, Entergy developed a sampling plan it believes “should satisfy the state that the deep bedrock aquifer remains safe.” Brattleboro Reformer (7/14)

U.S. Appeals Court Says Vt. Late with Nuclear Appeal: A U.S. appeals court has rejected an argument by the state and an anti-nuclear group that the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant should not have been given a new operating license because its federal water quality permit was out of date, the Burlington Free Press reports. In a ruling issued Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the state had multiple opportunities to argue the Vernon plant lacked a valid permit under the Clean Water Act during last year’s plant relicensing proceedings. It said the state and its ally, the New England Coalition, failed to do so forcefully enough. The litigation at the D.C. appeals court was separate from a lawsuit brought by Entergy against Vermont over laws requiring that the Legislature grant its approval before the plant could get a state permit for 20 additional years of operation. The Burlington Free Press (6/26)

States Join Appeal in Vermont Yankee Case: Nine states filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Vermont’s appeal of a ruling by the U.S. District Court in Brattleboro, the Associated Press reports. The ruling said state legislators were improperly motivated by nuclear safety — the jurisdiction of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission — when they passed laws requiring legislative approval for continuing operation of the Vermont Yankee plant past its initial 40-year license. The case has been followed by supporters and foes of nuclear power, and legal experts with an interest in the line between state and federal authority. Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire and Utah signed onto a brief from New York state’s attorney general, arguing that while a state’s authority over nuclear plants may not include radiation safety, it does include issues such as minimizing ratepayers’ costs and protecting the environment, and that the court gave excessive weight to individual lawmakers’ remarks about safety. The Associated Press (6/12)

N.E. Power Dispatch Group: Vermont Yankee Not Needed: The regional power dispatch group ISO New England has changed its stance on the future of Vermont Yankee saying the nuclear plant won’t be needed to ensure future power supplies and grid reliability, the Burlington Free Press reports. That’s a change from the position the ISO took last year. Sandra Levine of the Conservation Law Foundation tells Vermont Public Radio the new finding undercuts one of Entergy Corp.’s main arguments for keeping its Vermont reactor open. The plant got a 20-year license extension from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year, but still needs a state permit. Entergy spokesman Mike Burns says aside from power, Vermont Yankee also provides millions of dollars in taxes to the state and its host town of Vernon, as well as more than 600 jobs. The Burlington Free Press (5/23)

Federal Judge Rules VT Can’t Shut Nuclear Plant: A federal judge on Thursday blocked Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor to shut down when its license expires in March, saying that the state is trying to regulate nuclear safety, which only the federal government can do, the New York Times reports. The judge from the United States District Court in Brattleboro also held that the state cannot force the plant’s owner, Entergy, to sell electricity from the reactor to in-state utilities at reduced rates as a condition of continued operation, as Entergy asserts it is now doing. The nuclear operator filed a lawsuit last year challenging the constitutionality of a state law giving the Vermont Legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its original 40-year license expires. The ruling, seen as a victory for Vermont Yankee and a defeat for the state, still leaves some decisions about the plant’s future in the hands of the state Public Service Board, legal experts said. The New York Times (1/20); The Burlington Free Press (1/19)

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