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Commissioners deny Beyond Nuclear hearing over scheduled compliance with Fukushima Order at FitzPatrick

On June 9, 2017, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied a hearing to Beyond Nuclear and New York's Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) to challenge the delay of scheduled safety compliance with an Order by more than a year at the FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in upstate New York on Lake Ontario.

FitzPatrick is a GE Mark I boiling water reactor like those that exploded and melted down at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan's catastrophic March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown. The NRC issued an Order (EA-13-109) on June 6, 2013 which modified the operating licenses of  all GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactor operators to require the installation of a severe accident hardened containment vent by date certain in the FitzPatrick's case following the refuelling outage of January 2017.

The hardened vent was to be designed to withstand a severe accident and reliably vent extreme heat, high pressure and explosive gases to keep the weak containment structure from destruction. After the Order was issued in 2013, FitzPatrick's operator, Entergy Nuclear, determined that it was no longer going to operate the uneconomical nuclear power plant and instead of installing the safety upgrade it would be permanently closed before the scheduled refueling in January 2017. All work on the required public safety feature stopped. In 2016, the State of New York passed controversial legislation to financially bailout the failing reactor through the ratepayers. Entergy then sold FitzPatrick and transfered the NRC license to Chicago-based Exelon Generation who vowed to complete the installation and keep the reactor running. Entergy asked the NRC to waive the scheduled compliance and extend it by more than a year to June 2018.

Beyond Nuclear and AGREE had requested to intervene in the request for the extension to comply given the change to the modified license required a license amendment request and openned an opportunity for a public hearing. Throughout the modifications the NRC and industry have played keep away from the public due process. The regulator and the industry have colluded to deny transparency to their malleable process.

True to form, the Commission once again denied the public a hearing on changes and delays that significantly impact public safety. "Stop" does not mean "stop" where the nuclear industry's financial agenda again supercedes the public safety agenda and its due process. Two other GE Mark I reactors, Oyster Creek in New Jersey and Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts, have avoided compliance with the Fukushima Order altogether, where these Fukushima-style reactors will be allowed to continue full power operation until their announced  permanent closure in December and June 2019.