February 24, 2022 – In a dramatic reversal, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has sent “subsequent license renewal” decisions for Turkey Point and other nuclear power plants to the drawing board for environmental analysis update and new procedures for public participation. The decisions (CLI-22-02, CLI-22-03, CLI-22-04) affect all pending and future license renewal proceedings, including North Anna (Virginia), Peach Bottom (Pennsylvania), Oconee ( South Carolina), Point Beach (Wisconsin) and Turkey Point (Florida). These renewals could extend the life of these plants to 80 years.
“The decision is a significant step forward for nuclear reactor safety and environmental protection, as it commits NRC to assess the unique risks associated with renewing reactor licenses for a second term,” said Diane Curran, attorney. from Beyond Nuclear, a national environmental group that challenged the adequacy of an outdated Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) that the NRC had previously relied on for license extensions.
“Prior to today’s decision, the NRC relied on a GEIS prepared in 1996 and revised in 2013, which only addressed the environmental impacts of extending reactor license durations from 40 to 60 years” , Curran added. “However, NRC researchers recognized that operating a reactor beyond 60 years poses unique safety and environmental challenges related to age-related degradation of safety equipment. This decision sets the stage for a thorough examination of these important concerns. »
Caroline Reiser, counsel to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in the subsequent license renewal proceedings for the Turkey Point reactors in Florida, said it was important for the NRC to acknowledge 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 to come,” Reiser said. “But the NRC has failed to address this so far. With this ruling, the NRC has restored the level of accountability we were seeking in our legal action.”
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 range of environmental issues that need to be addressed includes significant new environmental issues that have emerged since the preparation of the now obsolete GEIS, including the identification of significant design flaws in these aging reactors.
For example, as noted by Paul Gunter, Reactor Monitoring Manager at Beyond Nuclear, “The NRC will need to consider whether the seismic design of the North Anna reactors should be improved to minimize environmental risks, in light of the earthquake. mineral earth of 2011 which exceeded the design basis of the reactors. With today’s rulings, the NRC has effectively recognized that it can no longer use the outdated GEIS as a shield against this important investigation.