NRC approves Seabrook plant's license extensionNuclear plant now eligible to operate until March 2050
- Mar 13, 2019 8:24 pm GMT
SEABROOK - The NextEra Energy Seabrook nuclear power plant will be able to operate until 2050 after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission officially approved its license extension Tuesday.
The March 12 extension came one day after the NRC issued its formal approval of an amendment to NextEra's original license, which was set to expire March 15, 2030. The amendment accommodates changes NextEra will make to manage the alkali-silica reaction in the plant's concrete structures.
The NRC approvals conclude a process that began in June 2010 when NextEra filed its application for the 20-year license extension. Such extensions are common among the nation's nuclear power plants.
"We are very pleased that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted Seabrook Station's renewed operating license," said Seabrook Station spokesperson Lindsay Rose. "This is the culmination of a rigorous, multi-year process and we look forward to continuing to provide clean, reliable and low-cost electricity to New England."
Seabrook Station's extension request took nearly nine years to complete due to complications resulting from ASR found by plant staff in 2009. Citing safety concerns posed by ASR, those opposed to the extension presented extensive filings against the extension, holding up the approval process for years.
ASR can occur in concrete when in the presence of moisture. ASR forms a gel that results in staining, micro-cracking and deformation of concrete. Found commonly in dams and bridges, ASR can take 15 years to appear. So far Seabrook Station is the only nuclear plant in the United States reporting ASR, but plants in other countries have reported it.
NRC's license extension review eventually produced environmental and safety statements that determined Seabrook Station is safe to continue operation through 2050 due in part to significant safety margins built into the plant such as its 2-foot thick, steel reinforced walls. The approved license amendment mandates the extensive monitoring methodology NextEra will employ to manage ASR through the coming decades.
Newburyport, Mass.-based C-10 called issuance of the license amendment and extension "disappointing but not surprising," since C-10 has a hearing scheduled for this summer that challenges the amendment. C-10 Executive Director Natalie Hildt Treat believes there are still "serious questions" concerning ASR in the plant's structures that need "public vetting."
"Our organization remains laser-focused on exposing the scientific and regulatory short-comings of this process, and we are committed to working on behalf of public safety," Treat said.
Two Massachusetts U.S. senators and one congressman this week urged the NRC to hold off issuing its approvals until after C-10's hearing. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who grew up in Hampton Falls, also wrote a letter on C-10's behalf.
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in January asked the NRC to delay action until it held another public meeting in the state, which was held Feb. 13.
"I appreciate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission adhering to the New Hampshire congressional delegation's request to hold an additional meeting to provide Granite Staters the opportunity to make their voices heard, as well as the willingness of NextEra Energy to participate in the meeting and address the concerns of the community," Shaheen said. "The safe operation of Seabrook is in the interest of the public and the skilled workforce who work tirelessly to maintain the safety of the plant."
NRC's decision drew praise from Seabrook Town Manager Bill Manzi, as the town's Board of Selectmen was on record repeatedly in support of the license extension.
"We think the review process for the extension was rigorous and that all safety issues dealing with the approval were followed," Manzi said Tuesday.
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