NRC agrees with Entergy, finds aging-management plan adequate

Kathryn Koch

The staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends the three-judge panel deciding on a challenge to the relicensing of Pilgrim Station nuclear plant to rule against Pilgrim Watch, the citizen’s group opposing renewal of the plant’s license.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the staff supports assertion of Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy, that the aging-management program in place at the plant is adequate and should not be an obstacle to renewal. The decision lies with the three judges on the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

Sheehan said NRC staff conducted a legal and technical review of Entergy’s position and agreed (in a filing of proposed findings of fact) with the company’s conclusions about the effectiveness of the aging-management program.

“This is the staff’s opinion, based on all the information it gathered during the process,” he said.

Friday, Sheehan said the ASLB panel is expected to rule by early September on the contention involving the monitoring of leaks from buried pipes and storage tanks. This issue was the subject of an evidentiary hearing held in April in Plymouth. The deadline for submitting findings of fact was Monday, June 9.

Sheehan said the ASLB panel also needs to rule on a Pilgrim Watch motion asking for consideration of a new contention related to the impact of metal fatigue on reactor vessel nozzles.

“This is an issue that has also arisen in other license renewal applications currently under review, including Vermont Yankee and Oyster Creek (located in New Jersey),” he said. “A decision on that motion is expected in July.”

In a separate action, the NRC has approved Entergy’s request for an exemption from the timeline for filing a decommissioning cost estimate for license renewal. Preliminary cost estimates must be submitted to the NRC five years before a power plant’s operating license expires.

Pilgrim’s license expires June 8, 2012, putting the five-year deadline at June 8, 2007. Sheehan said the NRC has determined that a misunderstanding resulted in Entergy missing that deadline. Entergy officials said they thought they did not have to file because the license renewal application was already before the NRC.

“There was no deliberate intent to not file it,” Sheehan said.

The NRC agreed to Entergy’s request for permission to submit the cost estimate by Friday, Aug. 1, which is less than four years from the date the license expires.

Entergy’s license renewal application has not been finalized. And while the NRC ruled that isn’t a reason to grant the request, it did determine the exemption is authorized by law with no undue risk to public health or safety and no threat to defense or security.