The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Max Karlin,

Groups Applaud NRC Move to Require Environmental Analyses for Nuclear Plant Relicensing Beyond 60 Years

Decisions on Subsequent License Renewals Advance Reactor Safety and Environmental Protection; Impacts Seen for License Renewals for Plants in Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida


February 24, 2022 - In a dramatic reversal, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sent "subsequent license renewal" decisions for the Turkey Point and other nuclear plants back to the drawing board for an updated environmental analysis and new proceedings for public participation. The decisions (CLI-22-02, CLI-22-03, CLI-22-04) affect all pending and prospective subsequent license renewal proceedings, including North Anna (Virginia), Peach Bottom (Pennsylvania), Oconee (South Carolina), Point Beach (Wisconsin), and Turkey Point (Florida). Those renewals could extend those plants' lives to 80 years.

"The decision is a tremendous advance for nuclear reactor safety and environmental protection, because it commits NRC to evaluate the unique risks of renewing reactor licenses for a second term," said Diane Curran, attorney for Beyond Nuclear, a national environmental group that has challenged the adequacy of an outdated Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) that NRC had previously relied on for the license extensions.

"Before today's decision, the NRC was relying on a GEIS prepared in 1996 and revised in 2013, that addressed only the environmental impacts of extending reactor license terms from 40 years out to 60 years," Curran added. "NRC researchers have acknowledged, however, that operating a reactor beyond 60 years poses unique safety and environmental issues related to the age-related degradation of safety equipment. This decision paves the way for a hard look at those significant concerns."

Caroline Reiser, attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) in the subsequent license renewal proceeding for the Turkey Point reactors in Florida, said it was important that NRC recognized the inadequacy of its previous review.

"Increased flooding caused by climate change poses serious risks to the safe operation of Turkey Point, and will pose greater risks in the decades ahead," Reiser said. "But the NRC has failed to address it up to now. With this decision, the NRC has restored the level of accountability we sought through our lawsuit."

The legal challenges by Beyond Nuclear and NRDC were joined by Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club, Alliance for a Progressive Virginia, and Miami Waterkeeper.

The scope of environmental issues that must be examined includes significant new environmental issues that have arisen since the now-outdated GEIS was prepared, including the revelation of significant design flaws in these aging reactors.

For instance, as noted by Paul Gunter, Director of Reactor Oversight at Beyond Nuclear, "The NRC will have to examine whether the seismic design of the North Anna reactors should be upgraded to minimize environmental risk, in light of the 2011 Mineral Earthquake that exceeded the reactors' design basis. With today's decisions, NRC has effectively acknowledged that it can no longer use the outdated GEIS as a shield against this important inquiry."

Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic.

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