March 8, 2012 / 6:00 PM / 6 years ago

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
    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.	
    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
    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.

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