* Massachusetts can appeal to the NRC Commission * Pilgrim operating license to expire 2012 * Entergy wants to run the plant for another 20 years Nov 29 (Reuters) - A three-judge panel at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied a filing by Massachusetts to stop the relicensing of Entergy's 685-megawatt Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts. The NRC said Tuesday the state's contention was based on the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan in March. The NRC has long held that any lessons learned from the Fukushima accident would be implemented at all reactors new or existing regardless of whether they are seeking a license. The NRC uses the renewal process to determine whether a reactor can safely operate for another 20 years without harming the environment. In 2006, Entergy filed with the NRC to renew the 39-year old reactor's original 40-year operating license for an additional 20 years until 2032. The plant's operating license expires June 8, 2012 but can continue to operate so long as the renewal proceeding is ongoing. Massachusetts filed the Fukushima contention with the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) panel handling the Pilgrim renewal proceeding in June. The NRC said the state could appeal the ASLB ruling to the five-member, presidentially appointed Commission that oversees the NRC. The commission already has at least one other contention appeal already before it. Pilgrim Watch, a group opposed to the reactor relicensing, has appealed a contention related to the plant's Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA). SAMA is a cost benefit analysis of what a plant operator can do to mitigate a severe accident. ------------------------------------------------------------ PLANT BACKGROUND/TIMELINE STATE: Massachusetts COUNTY: Plymouth TOWN: Plymouth OPERATOR: Entergy Nuclear OWNER(S): Entergy Corp UNIT(S): 685 MW Nuclear COST: $462.25 million (2007 US dollars) TIMELINE: 1972 - Pilgrim enters service 1999 - Entergy buys Pilgrim from Boston Edison, now a unit of Massachusetts power company NSTAR 2006 - Entergy files with the NRC to renew the original 40-year operating license for an additional 20 years 2011-12 - Commission to decide on appeals of contentions the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) decided in Entergy's favor related to the plant's Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMA). radioactive liquids in underground tanks and pipes Massachusetts to decide whether to appeal another contention the ASLB decided in Entergy's favor related to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan in March. Jun 8, 2012 - Pilgrim will retire unless the NRC renews the license. The Commission is not required to make a decision at any particular time. The plant, however, can continue to operate after the license expires so long as the renewal process is ongoing.