BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed an appeal on Thursday challenging a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to proceed with hearings to grant a new 20-year license to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.
Coakley cited a report concluding that the risks of severe accidents at the plant are greater than previously determined. Coakley's appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, challenges the NRC's decision to continue the proceedings for relicensing the Plymouth-based plant before the commission considers the lessons learned from the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants and their relevance for the Pilgrim plant prior to relicensing.
"Our petition for review is intended to ensure that the NRC gives due consideration, including a meaningful opportunity for public comment, to these important environmental and public safety issues," Coakley said.
"We believe safe nuclear power can be a part of our energy portfolio but 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."
An NRC-assigned task force reviewed the Fukushima accident and recommended actions to increase the safety level associated with adequate protection of the public health and safety for U.S. nuclear plants.
Coakley's office cited an independent expert who concluded that the environmental risks of operating Pilgrim are greater than set forth in the plant's pending application. The expert said that additional mitigation measures could be warranted to reduce the risks, including the improvement of the venting system to release pressure that could otherwise cause explosions. The independent report said that Pilgrim is a plant of similar design to the ones that failed at Fukushima.
Coakley's appeal alleges that the NRC's decision to go ahead with the license hearing is in violation of the Atomic Energy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the NRC's own regulations.