By Scott DiSavino
May 25 The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) said on Friday it approved a new 20-year operating license
for Entergy Corp's Pilgrim nuclear power reactor in
Three of the five commissioners voted in favor of the new
license for the 40-year old reactor, with one -- Chairman
Gregory Jaczko -- opposed. The other commissioner did not vote,
according to the vote count released by the NRC.
Late Thursday, Jaczko said he voted against the license
renewal and criticized his fellow commissioners for their
"unprecedented" support of approving the license.
Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Magwood and William
Ostendorff voted in favor of the license renewal. Commissioner
George Apostolakis did not participate in the vote.
"While I appreciate the need to have an appropriate
procedure for bringing this process to completion, the current
approach that my colleagues on the Commission support is
unprecedented in license renewal proceedings and provides little
basis for action," Jaczko said in his comments.
The other commissioners did not address Jaczko's concerns
directly in their comments.
"The NRC's decision was the result of an extensive review of
our renewal application that exceeded six years. We believe the
commission made the right decision, based on a thorough safety
and environmental review," Entergy said in a statement.
This is another disagreement in a long running battle
between the NRC Chairman and the other commissioners, who have
disagreed on the licensing of the new reactors being built by
Southern Co and Scana Corp in Georgia and South
Carolina, and the timing of the safety upgrades for the nation's
reactors as recommended by the Fukushima task force.
But the battles at least for Jaczko will soon be over.
Earlier this week, the Chairman said he would resign from the
NRC after his replacement is confirmed, ending a year of intense
criticism over his management style.
Entergy, of Louisiana, applied to the NRC to renew the
685-megawatt Pilgrim's original 40-year operating license in
January 2006, making this the longest renewal proceeding to
Industry experts, however, expect the renewal of Entergy's
Indian Point reactors in New York to last much longer than six
years. Entergy applied for new licenses for Indian Point in 2007
but the NRC's judicial arm has not yet started hearings on more
than a dozen contentions against that license renewal.
By late 2007, the NRC staff recommended the commission
approve the new license for Pilgrim.
But the commission and its judicial arm have been holding
hearings on numerous contentions against the Pilgrim renewal and
appeals of contentions decided against those opposed to renewal.
In his comments, Jaczko said there was still more to do on
existing contentions. He said there were still several questions
about the adequacy of the staff's review pending and it was
therefore inappropriate to issue the license at this time.
"This hardly seems to be a fair process for petitioners,"
Jaczko said referring to those opposed to the license renewal.
In support of Jaczko, Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts
said, "This vote is an unprecedented subversion of the rules
governing relicensing of the nation's nuclear reactors. It is
the latest in a long series of votes that demonstrate a reckless
disregard for safety and the public on the part of Commissioners
Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff and Apostolakis."
Markey, a Democrat, is the senior member of the Energy and
Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC.
But other Republican members of the Committee earlier this
week urged the NRC to get on with a license decision.
"With Pilgrim's license expiration date fast approaching,
fairness to the applicant takes on additional importance: human
importance. Six hundred and fifty people work at Pilgrim," the
Republican Committee members said.
"Even though NRC procedures will allow the plant to continue
operating until the Commission finally reaches a decision, the
prolonged uncertainty creates an impression of regulatory
intransigence and poses a hardship for employees," the
The Republicans were House Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Energy and Power Subcommittee
Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Environment and the Economy
Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), and Energy and
Commerce Committee Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX).
Pilgrim is a General Electric Type 3 boiling water
reactor that entered service in 1972. It is located in the town
of Plymouth about 38 miles (61 km) southeast of Boston.
Its original license expires June 8, 2012 but the plant can
continue to operate so long as the relicensing process is
For a factbox on U.S. nuclear units seeking license renewal