For Immediate Release - April 05, 2012

AG Coakley Appeals NRC Decision To Continue Hearing On 20-Year License For Pilgrim Nuclear

Expert Analysis Concludes Risks of Severe Accidents Is Greater Than Previously Determined

BOSTON – Citing an expert report concluding the risks of severe accidents are greater at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant than previously determined, Attorney General Martha Coakley filed an appeal today challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) decision to proceed with hearings to grant a new 20-year license extension for the nuclear plant.

The appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, challenges the Commission’s decision to continue the proceedings for relicensing the Plymouth based plant before the NRC considers the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants in Japan and their relevance for the Pilgrim plant before relicensing.

“Our Petition for Review is intended to ensure that the NRC gives due consideration, including a meaningful opportunity for public comment, to these important environmental and public safety issues,” AG Coakley said. “We believe safe nuclear power can be a part of our energy portfolio but the NRC needs to understand the lessons learned from Fukushima and apply those lessons to Pilgrim before granting the plant a 20-year license extension.”  

“I strongly support Attorney General Coakley’s appeal in federal court,” said Cape and Islands State Senator Dan Wolf (D-Harwich). “Lessons learned from Fukushima should be explored in an open, public process and applied to the Pilgrim re-licensing process, particularly in regards to on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel rods.”

“Nuclear power may continue to be a potential source of energy for our region’s growing needs, but it must be created safely and its waste must be properly stored. I applaud the Attorney General’s action to appeal the NRC’s recent split decision,” said state Rep. James Cantwell (D-Marshfield), who has filed legislation to extend nuclear power plant protections in Massachusetts. “The NRC must consider new information and lessons from the Fukushima disaster in the relicensing process for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.”

A task force assigned by the NRC to review the Fukushima accident recommended actions to increase the level of safety associated with adequate protection of the public health and safety for U.S. nuclear plants. The AG’s Office also cited an independent expert who concluded that the environmental risks of operating Pilgrim, a plant of similar design to those that failed at Fukushima, are greater than set forth in the Pilgrim owner’s pending application. According to the expert, additional mitigation measures may be warranted to reduce those risks including the improvement of the venting system to release pressure that can otherwise cause explosions.

In denying AG Coakley’s request that it take time to evaluate the lessons of Fukushima, the NRC explained that “we have already considered and rejected the notion that our Fukushima lessons-learned review needs to be completed prior to a decision on any pending license renewal application.” The AG’s appeal alleges that the NRC’s decision violates the National Environmental Policy Act as well as the Atomic Energy Act and the NRC’s own regulations.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Brock in AG Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division.

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