« Beyond Nuclear & AGREE challenge Entergy plan to delay compliance with NRC Orders at FitzPatrick | Main | NRC unlearns lesson from Fukushima at Oyster Creek »

Beyond Nuclear & Pilgrim Watch challenge Entergy attempt at evasion of federal law established by Fukushima Order 

On September 7, 2016, Beyond Nuclear joined with Pilgrim Watch and six other Massachusetts safe energy groups to oppose an effort by the New Orleans-based Entergy Nuclear Corporation to quietly evade the economic consequences and legal compliance with a critical Fukushima Lessons-Learned Order. The groups are requesting a public hearing before the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety Licensing Board.

The Order was issued by NRC on June 6, 2013. Acknowledging the demonstrated gross containment failure of the three Fukushima reactors that were at power on March 11, 2011, the NRC Order modified the operating licenses of all operators of the U.S. Fukushima-style reactors, including Entergy’s Pilgrim GE Mark I boiling water reactor in Plymouth, MA to require the installation of a reliable hardened containment vent capable of withstanding a severe accident. This includes where the reactor core has already been damaged and begun to melt down.

The Order explicitly mandates that the operator responses and actions be within the required time frames for which in Pilgrim’s case the safety upgrade is scheduled for completion following its next refueling outage in Spring 2017. On June 24, 2016, over three years later, Entergy filed “A Request for Extension to Comply” with the NRC Order to postpone compliance until after Entergy’s announced early closure date of June 1, 2019. Entergy will then seek relief from the Order altogether.

The joint petition requests that the NRC deny Pilgrim an extension for many reasons.  First, an "extension" is disgenuous because Entergy blantanly has no intention of ever complying with the public safety Order. In fact, Energy intends to continue operation, avoid the Fukushima's economic consequences for US reactors and hide the very real public health and safety risks of non-compliant operation behind closed doors from public disclosure. Entergy’s filed its request for an extension years well after the Order’s own timeline required all licensees to notify the agency if there was going to be a compliance problem. Of more concern, there is the  central legal issue that Entergy’s request is really to attempt to evade the fact that its operating license was amended by the Order which requires Pilgrim to instead submit a license amendment request and the opportunity for full disclosure and review of the safety risks in an open public hearing under the NRC’s own rules and regulations.

If Entergy refuses to legitimately seek avoid compliance with the Order through the license amendment process by submitting to full disclosure  in a public hearing as required by law, then Pilgrim should not be allowed to refuel in 2017 and the NRC must revoke this GE Mark I boiling water reactor's operating license for failure to comply with an Order.

“Entergy's request for an 'extension to comply' with the NRC Order is a disingenuous attempt to evade Fukushima's economic consequences and the public's scrutiny of the risks of continued operation in violation of federal law from behind closed doors," said Paul Gunter, Director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear based in Takoma Park, Maryland in its press release.  "This simply has to be challenged, in an open public hearing," he said.