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NRC Pilgrim Plant Hearings Appealed by Massachusetts AG

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to proceed with hearings on a 20-year license extension for Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim nuclear power plant was appealed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Coakley’s appeal, filed in the U.S. Appeals Court in Boston, challenged the commission’s decision to go ahead before considering lessons from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, according to a statement from her office today.

“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,” Coakley said. An earthquake and tsunami wrecked Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi station last year, causing radiation leaks.

Pilgrim’s license is scheduled to expire June 8, 40 years after it was issued, according to the NRC’s website. The plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, can generate 685 megawatts, according to NRC data. That’s enough to power about 550,000 average U.S. homes, based on Energy Department data.

The NRC rejected Coakley’s contention, affirming its general stance that post-Fukushima rules will apply to all plants and shouldn’t be considered in relicensing, Neil Sheehan, a commission spokesman, said today in an interview.

NRC Rules

Under NRC rules, Entergy can continue to operate the reactor after the license officially expires, Sheehan said. Because Entergy applied to renew the license more than five years before expiration, the plant can stay open so long as there are unresolved disputes over the renewal, Sheehan said.

Several environmental groups have raised new issues with the plant operation that must be reviewed, he said.

A spokeswoman for New Orleans-based Entergy didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

The appeal is Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Boston).

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