Congressman Bill Keating issued a press release Friday voicing his disappointment with the new license "despite the fact that there are unresolved administrative proceedings and judicial appeals outstanding," Keating said.
"It sets a dangerous precedent and highlights the fact that our current system for relicensing our nuclear power plants is in desperate need of reform. The men and women who work to keep Pilgrim operational and safe are undoubtedly some of the best, but what does today’s vote say for the plants across the nation that have yet to go through Post-Fukishima upgrades and have been operational for decades now? While it is not safe for a nuclear plant to be under extended operation status without a renewed license, it is equally unsafe to relicense when ongoing issues exist or without updates being fully implemented. Our current relicensing process allows for both scenarios to happen."
May 4, Reps. Keating and Ed Markey sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko urging the Commission not to move forward with its decision on whether to issue the twenty-year license extension for Pilgrim until there is a final resolution on all related administrative proceedings and judicial appeals. In their letter to the NRC, Reps. Markey and Keating wrote that “To do otherwise would send an alarming message to all residents living near America’s 104 nuclear power plants who are attempting to have an impact on a critical decision that will affect their lives for decades.”
Rep. Keating is also a cosponsor of H.R. 1242, The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act. The legislation calls for the NRC to ensure that nuclear power plants and spent nuclear fuel pools can withstand and adequately respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, strong storms, long power outages, or other events that threaten a major impact. The legislation also calls for a moratorium on nuclear power plant licenses, license extensions, and new nuclear reactor designs until an overhaul of nuclear safety to address the inadequacies exposed by the Fukushima meltdowns is completed.
The Commission’s authorization came in a Staff Requirements Memorandum issued today, according to a press release from the NRC. The staff had requested authorization to renew Pilgrim’s license although some contentions remain under adjudication before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. Under NRC policy, a decision to renew a license before completion of the hearing requires Commission approval. The authorization specifies that if the renewed license is subsequently set aside on appeal, the previous license would be reinstated.
Without the license renewal, Entergy could continue to operate the Pilgrim reactor after June 8 under "timely renewal" provisions in NRC regulations, which would keep the current license in effect while the adjudication continues. Renewal of the license means new license conditions take effect, requiring Entergy to implement age-management policies and programs designed to ensure safety during the period of extended operations.
Outgoing NRC chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the lone vote opposing the new license, noting that several matters were still pending before the board, and that "the current approach that my colleagues on the Commission support is unprecedented in license renewal proceedings."
Gov. Deval Patrick said the NRC's decision "without addressing public and environmental safety issues is extremely troubling. I called for a complete and transparent evaluation of the outstanding concerns because I believe it’s in the public’s best interest. Renewing the license before those concerns are alleviated is irresponsible and misguided."