UPDATE 2-Mass. Pilgrim reactor moves closer to license renewal
* Pilgrim is longest NRC license renewal to date * Entergy filed for new license in 2006 * New license would let Pilgrim run until 2032 By Scott DiSavino March 8 (Reuters) - Entergy Corp's Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts moved a step closer to securing a new 20-year operating license when U.S. nuclear regulators rejected a filing opposing a license for the 40-year old plant. Commissioners at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Thursday rejected a contention by Massachusetts and others, which wanted more study of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan last year. The commissioners still have a few other contentions to deal with before they can decide on the relicensing of the 685-megawatt (MW) reactor, the only nuclear plant in Massachusetts. The outstanding contentions include concerns about accident cleanup, electrical cables and a look at severe accident mitigation alternatives at the plant. There is also a group attempting to file a new argument related to fish being added to the endangered species list. The NRC could not say when the commissioners would take up the Pilgrim relicensing again. "Entergy is pleased with the NRC's ruling today denying the Massachusetts Attorney General's post-Fukushima petition and the AG's motion to suspend Pilgrim Station's license renewal proceeding, and we look forward to the NRC's decision regarding license renewal for Pilgrim," Entergy said in a statement. To date, the six-year old renewal process for Pilgrim was the longest yet for a new license in NRC history. However, Entergy's ongoing quest to renew the licenses for its two reactors at the 2,063-MW Indian Point plant in New York, which expire in 2013 and 2015, was expected to last much longer. Entergy, the nation's second-biggest nuclear power operator, applied to renew the original 40-year operating license for Pilgrim in January 2006. The original license expires in June 2012 but the plant can continue to operate so long as the relicensing process is ongoing. The renewal would allow Pilgrim to continue operating until 2032. The company filed to renew the Indian Point licenses in April 2007. NO REACTORS REJECTED To date, the NRC has approved of new licenses for 71 of the nation's 104 operating reactors and rejected none. Nuclear power produces about 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States. Although the NRC has completed most license renewal applications in about two years, it can take years to decide on heavily opposed proceedings like Pilgrim and Indian Point. It took Exelon Corp, the nation's biggest nuclear power operator, about four years to overcome opposition to the renewal of its Oyster Creek reactor in New Jersey and it took Entergy about five years to get the Vermont Yankee license renewed, which the state of Vermont is still fighting. On Thursday, the commissioners upheld an earlier decision by the NRC's judicial arm, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), which recently denied the Massachusetts Attorney General's Fukushima contention. The NRC has said on many occasions it will not hold up a license renewal or even an application to build a new reactor to wait for the final rules related to the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The agency will apply those rules to all reactors, new or existing, regardless of whether the reactor is seeking a new license.