NRC plans hearings on NY Indian Pt nuclear renewal
* NRC hearings scheduled for October and December
* Entergy wants plant to run for another 20 years
* NY Gov. wants reactors shut in 2013 and 2015
By Scott DiSavino
June 8 (Reuters) - A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel on Friday said it plans to hold hearings in October on Indian Point nuclear power plant's license renewal after it cut to 10 the number of contentions, or complaints, against the New York plant.
The three-judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel said in a statement that to get down to 10 contentions, it consolidated some contentions and dismissed two of them.
In the past, the NRC has said groups opposed to the license renewal had posed about 20 contentions against the plant getting a new 20-year operating license.
Officials at Entergy Corp, the second biggest nuclear operator in the United States and Indian Point's owner, could not immediately comment on the NRC's timeline to hear the contentions against the renewal.
Entergy, of New Orleans, wants to keep the two reactors at Indian Point running for another 20 years after their licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.
But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants the plant shut in part because it is located in the New York metropolitan area, home to some 19 million people, where even the most unlikely possibility of an accident is too much.
The 2,062-megawatt Indian Point plant is located in Buchanan in Westchester County about 40 miles (64 km) north of Manhattan. It provides about a quarter of the power used in New York City and Westchester. The units entered service in 1974 and 1976.
Entergy filed with the NRC to renew the reactors' original 40-year operating licenses in 2007.
While the NRC has decided many other non-contentious renewal applications in less than two years, energy experts have said Indian Point's renewal bid is the most contentious in the nation so far and was expected to take the longest for the NRC to conclude.
To date, the NRC has approved of 73 license renewals for the nation's 104 reactors and rejected none.
See factbox on pending license renewals
The longest renewal process to date was Entergy's Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts, which took the NRC over six years to decide in May 2012.
After recommending that the NRC commissioners approve of the Indian Point renewal by the end of 2010, the NRC staff has taken another look at its safety and environmental evaluations.
The NRC said Friday the staff planned to issue a second supplemental safety evaluation report in August and a second draft environmental impact statement in July.
The ASLB scheduled evidentiary hearing for the numerous contentions against the Indian Point renewal for October 15-24 and December 10-14, as needed.
The NRC is not the only group looking at Indian Point.
In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said it would not issue a water permit for Indian Point, needed before the NRC can renew the license, until Entergy installs a so-called closed loop cooling system to avoid killing fish and other aquatic life in the Hudson River.
Indian Point, like many power plants and industrial facilities, uses water from a river, to cool plant systems.
Entergy said a closed-loop cooling system, like a cooling tower, would cost too much and take too long to build. The company said cooling towers would cost $1.5 billion to $2 billion and could not enter service before 2029.
Entergy countered it would be best to install a Wedgewire screen system to screen out most of the fish and that could be installed in about three years at a cost of $200 million to $250 million.
The water permit issue was before an administrative law judge at the state DEC.
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