June 8, 2011: Markey, Tierney: Do Not Relicense Seabrook Nuclear Plant 20 Yrs Before License Expire

Lawmakers highlight need to incorporate safety and aging vulnerabilities, climate change impacts, lessons of Fukushima meltdowns in all NRC re-licensing decisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and dean of the New England House Congressional delegation, and John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), senior member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, today sent a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) calling on them to deny a 20-year relicense application for the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire that would begin in 2030 and end in 2050. The lawmakers also call on the NRC to disallow all requests for 20-year license extensions that are filed as early as 20 years prior to license expiration for any operating U.S. nuclear reactors.

Citing a May 30, 2011 The Boston Globe story that reported the concrete surrounding a safety-related tunnel at the Seabrook nuclear power plant had lost 22 percent of its strength due to water saturation over the past decade, Reps. Markey and Tierney make the point that there are safety and aging vulnerabilities for nuclear reactors that might not be known decades in advance.

With reports that safety-related concrete is already dissolving at Seabrook, having NRC give the 20-year old nuclear reactor a clean bill of health until it turns 60 is a little like a doctor telling an adult with hypertension that there is no need to worry about heart disease for the next 40 years,” said Rep. Markey.

Seabrook first received its operating license in 1986, and since then, the NRC has already given the nuclear power plant a 3-year extension of its 40-year operating license.

In the letter to NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko Reps. Markey and Tierney write that “there are additional aging and other safety issues that could not possibly be contemplated or fully understood a full twenty years in advance of the nuclear reactor’s end-of-licensed-life.”

The lawmakers also call on the NRC to end its practice of accepting and granting license extensions for nuclear reactors twenty years before the license expires and should reject those that it has already received until the reactor has operated for more time so that potential safety problems can be identified and more fully understood. The NRC is currently considering 20-year license renewal applications for 16 existing reactors at 11 power plant locations.
“Granting license extensions so far in advance is particularly unwise in the wake of the Fukushima meltdowns, as the NRC learns of new vulnerabilities at U.S. nuclear power plants that should impact its future licensing decisions related to both new and existing facilities,” write Rep. Markey and Tierney in the letter. “The NRC should stop making the dangerous assumption that risks, and our understanding of them, will remain static for decades.”

Since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Rep. Markey has written to the NRC and President Obama for more information on the implications for America’s domestic nuclear industry. Rep. Markey recently introduced legislation to overhaul nuclear safety. The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 will impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdowns. Rep. Markey’s office also released the report ,“Fukushima Fallout: Regulator Loopholes at U.S. Nuclear Plants”, detailing several concerns about NRC safety regulations following the Fukushima crisis.

A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found below .

Response from NRC can be found HERE with attachents HERE .