Coakley appeals decision to Nuclear Regulatory Commission

By Bryan Cohen | Dec 16, 2011


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley appealed to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Dec. 9 for review of a regulatory board's refusal to consider the Japan nuclear disaster in the relicensing process of a Plymouth plant.

As part of the relicensing process for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2006, Coakley's office asserted that an accident involving the spent fuel pool at the plant would present a significant risk to public safety and the environment. The NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board refused revising its regulations to address these risks, claiming the risks of spent fuel pools were insignificant.

"It has never been our office's intention to ban the use of nuclear energy in Massachusetts," Coakley said. "Nuclear energy, when done right, can play a valuable role in the future of our energy supply. However, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we believe the NRC must fully consider whether adequate measures have been taken at Pilgrim to minimize the public safety and environmental risks associated with spent fuel pools."

After the Fukushima disaster in Japan on March 11, Coakley's office filed a petition urging the ASLB to not issue a final relicensing decision regarding Pilgrim, pending consideration by the NRC of new and significant information raised by that disaster.

In the petition, Coakley noted the similarities between the Fukushima and Pilgrim plants and argued that the problems experienced at the Japanese plant were consistent with concerns highlighted in the 2006 filing.

Coakley's office asserted that a spent fuel pool accident at Pilgrim would present a significant risk to the environment and public safety and that the ASLB should consider these risks in the relicensing process. After an NRC task force published a preliminary report on Fukushima, Coakley's office pointed out that the report's conclusions also supported further study before relicensing the Pilgrim plant.

The ASLB denied the petition and ruled that the Fukushima accident does not present new and significant information and requires no assessment in relation to the Pilgrim plant. The ASLB reasoned that the risk analysis used for the plant does not require consideration of actual nuclear accidents.

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