For Immediate Release - November 23, 2012

AG Coakley Urges Passage of Legislation Narrowing Timeframe for Nuclear Power Plant License Renewal

Act Ensures Greater Public Safety; Accountability for Age-Related Issues at Nuclear Facilities

BOSTON – In a letter to Congress on Tuesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley expressed her strong support of legislation that will prevent nuclear facilities from filing applications for license renewal more than 10 years prior to the expiration of current licenses.

Currently, regulations permit the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to relicense a nuclear power plant with as many as 20 years left on its initial 40-year license. The legislation – the Nuclear Reactor Safety First Act – makes necessary changes to ensure greater public safety, while increasing accountability for age-related problems at nuclear facilities, and pushing for increased attention to structural problems at nuclear facilities.

“A nuclear licensee should not be able to avoid reasonable scrutiny of age-related safety concerns simply by filing an application two decades before its current license expires,” AG Coakley said. “I have vigorously advocated for stronger measures to safeguard public safety and the environment at nuclear power plants that are located in or near Massachusetts, and I will continue to do so.”

In 1990, the NRC granted the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant its initial 40-year operating license. Yet in 2010, with 20 years still remaining on its license, Seabrook filed for a new 20-year renewal license without adequately addressing degradation problems of its concrete structure due to the alkali-silica reaction (ASR). 

According to the letter, sent by AG Coakley on Tuesday to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the legislation will help avoid this type of situation by ensuring that a nuclear facility cannot file a premature application to avoid reasonable oversight of age-related problems that may arise later in the initial licensing term, and requires the NRC to adequately monitor and manage the effects of aging during the term of relicensing. 

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