Friday, December 09, 2005

NRC Extends Millstone License: Nuclear power plants allowed to operate another 20 years

By Julie Wernau
Published on 12/9/2005

Waterford - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced last week license renewals for Millstone Units 2 and 3, ending a nearly two-year process earlier than expected, despite activists' repeated attempts to intervene. Each plant is now permitted to operate for an additional 20 years, extending the license for Unit 2 to July 31, 2035, and Unit 3 to Nov. 25, 2045. Millstone Unit 1 no longer operates.

?The folks who did the license renewal did a really extraordinary job of getting things done,? said Peter Hyde, spokesperson for Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Inc., owner of Millstone Power Station.

Of the 104 nuclear power plants the NRC oversees in the United States, none has ever been denied operating license renewal.

For the duration of the process, Millstone had an entire roomful of people set aside to work on the renewal process, poring through tons of paperwork and hours of inspections for every aspect of the plant's operation and impact.

?Dominion has come to realize that when you operate the plant safely, it runs economically,? Hyde said.

Waterford First Selectman Daniel Steward, himself a former supervisor at Millstone, said he was pleased by the NRC's decision to renew the power station's operating licenses.

?If they were to stop, where would Connecticut get 50 percent of its energy?? Steward said, calling the plant safe, reliable and a ?good neighbor.?

Both the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone and Suffolk County, N.Y. ? situated across Long Island Sound, 11 miles from Millstone ? tried to stall the process because of safety concerns.

CCAM has repeatedly argued that Millstone has created ?cancer clusters? in southeastern Connecticut and that environmental problems at the plant's water intake site, among other concerns, should shut the plant down. Steward said last week that he didn't believe the cancer clusters were caused by Millstone and that it was the NRC's responsibility to regulate nuclear power.

In January, officials in Suffolk County crashed a public comment session the NRC held at Waterford Town Hall to vet the NRC's review of Millstone's environmental impact on the region.

In a protracted statement, Southold's chief executive, Joshua Horton, scolded the NRC for leaving Southold out of the relicensing process. Southold is one mile beyond the 10-mile limit the NRC sets for towns considered to be directly affected by Millstone's re-licensing and officials are concerned that they do not have a proper evacuation plan in place.

"Your generic environmental impact statement is flawed. Direly flawed. Gravely flawed," Horton said in January, accusing the NRC of promoting rather than regulating nuclear power. "...You put more effort into studying the effects of winter flounder than you did on me."

Nancy Burton from the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone did not return calls seeking comment, but the coalition's Web site registered disappointment.

?NRC Approves Millstone Relicensing: Governor Rell, Attorney General Blumenthal and Commissioner McCarthy: Where were you? Your silence was a betrayal of the public trust!? the coalition posted on the front page of its site above a photograph of three monkeys posing as ?See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.?

Hyde said Millstone doesn't plan to celebrate the renewal, but rather, continue operations as usual. Planning in the nuclear industry generally takes place decades in advance and Millstone is looking into the future at new projects, Hyde said.

?We never really breathe a sigh of relief,? he said. ?We're really always focused on the plant.?

After nearly a year of hearings on the matter, the Connecticut Siting Council granted Dominion permission last spring to store 49 garage-sized nuclear waste modules in the town of Waterford, enough to store waste through 2025. Dominion must apply for more modules on an ?as-needed? basis, Hyde said.

In addition, an expired DEP permit for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System has been awaiting DEP approval since 1997. The DEP asked Dominion to study fish larvae entrainment at its intake area. Dominion submitted its findings in 2001 and is still waiting for word back about renewing its 1999 permit for the system. In the meantime, the company operates under its 1999 permit.

?We're hopeful that we'll have a resolution to that soon,? Hyde said.


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