The call against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) plant license renewal process has grown almost 10 times louder.
Nine state and national organizations, including the Nuclear Information Resource Service and Greenpeace National, have joined the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (ANR) in lambasting a proposed revision to the NRC’s Generic Environmental Impact Statement opponents argue “glosses over a myriad of environmental impacts at aging reactors and incorrectly categorizes many issues as generic.”
On Jan. 12, the alliance filed comments on the federal agency’s proposed changes, which would affect how nuclear plants across the country are evaluated in their operating license renewal process. The revision proposes creating an all-encompassing list of environmental issues applicable to all reactor sites in the United States when considering licensing.
“The administration has called for greater transparency from our governmental agencies, yet this proposed revision actually reduces the openness and thoroughness of proceedings that are proposed to ensure safe operations during the license renewal period,” the statement reads.
However, NRC spokesperson Victor Dricks wrote in an e-mail to New Times that the commission has set a goal of reviewing the guidelines every 10 years and updating as necessary.
“The proposed rule revisions would redefine the number and scope of environmental issues that must be addressed during NRC’s review of a nuclear power plant license renewal,” Dricks wrote.
Alliance outreach coordinator David Weisman pointed out that the original Generic Environmental Impact Statement was created in 1996 and, since then, more than 50 reactors in the country have been relicensed by the NRC—that no application by any utility has been denied.
“Obviously [the NRC] understand the process is incomplete,” Weisman said. “Even though all these plants have been approved under the old standards, if any concerns are adopted, will the NRC retroactively revisit any of those plants that were already approved?”
“A site-specific Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) is also prepared to address those issues that are unique to each site. Diablo Canyon’s seismic issues will be addressed separately in a SEIS,” Dricks pointed out. “The NRC will consider any comments provided by state, county, local, tribal, or other federal agencies during the period of the NRC’s review and analysis.”
The NRC’s proposed revision to the relicensing checklist comes after Pacific Gas & Electric Company applied to renew its license for the Diablo Canyon power plant in Avila Beach. One of the main points of contention with the NRC process is that a number of issues, including seismology and waste storage, weren’t thoroughly explored by state regulators before the NRC accepted PG&E’s application.
On Jan. 8, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee wrote a letter to California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Michael Peevey stating his pleasure that PG&E is seeking funding authorization from the CPUC to proceed with supplemental seismic studies, and urging the CPUC’s approval for PG&E to use ratepayer money for those studies.
“I support approval of PG&E’s application, and I encourage the CPUC to approve the application and funding on an expedited basis so that PG&E may commence these critical seismic studies as soon as possible,” Blakeslee wrote.
According to ANR Executive Director Rochelle Becker, the alliance will “continue to ignore the NRC” and concentrate on supporting state regulators and the legislature’s efforts to fund and implement more seismic studies for Diablo Canyon.