Markey Blasts NRC Vote to Circumvent Rules, Shut Out Public on Pilgrim Relicense

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In an unprecedented move to end-run the rules allowing for full resolution of outstanding issues at America’s nuclear power plants before renewal of licenses, a vote released today by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Greg Jaczko indicates that his was the only dissenting vote against granting the staff’s request to move forward to authorize relicensing the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.  Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) decried the move by the Commission to approve the staff recommendation to bypass outstanding administrative proceedings and judicial appeals related to nuclear and environmental safety.

The current license for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station expires in June 2012, and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. has requested permission to continue operating the plant for another 20 years. Some of the pending proceedings and appeals include those referred by the NRC to its own advisory board for resolution, while others were brought forward by members of the public and the Massachusetts Attorney General.

“This vote is an unprecedented subversion of the rules governing relicensing of the nation’s nuclear reactors. It is the latest in a long series of votes that demonstrate a reckless disregard for safety and the public on the part of Commissioners Magwood, Svinicki, Ostendorff and Apostolakis," said Rep. Markey, dean of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the NRC. “The NRC shouldn’t be short circuiting the process and short-changing residents by moving forward with license approval before all the efforts to improve nuclear and environmental safety at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station have been resolved. Pilgrim’s history of safety and security issues demands full transparency and accountability in the decisions affecting its relicensing so residents can be assured that the process is fair and serves the public interest.”

Reps. Markey and Keating sent a letter to the NRC on May 4 urging the Commission not to move forward with its decision on whether to issue the twenty-year license extension for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station until final resolution on all related administrative proceedings and judicial appeals. Reps. Markey is also the author of H.R. 1242, The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act. The legislation 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.  Rep. Markey has additionally sent two other letters related to the apparent failure of the NRC to properly consider all potential environmental impacts associated with continued operation of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

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