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 economic consequences and legal compliance with a critical Fukushima Lessons-Learned Order. The groups have filed a petition in request of a public hearing before the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Atomic Safety Licensing Board.
The Order was issued by the NRC on June 6, 2013 for the 30 remaining GE Mark I and Mark II boiing water reactor units still in operation in the US. 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 GE Mark I boiling water reactor at Pilgrim 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 which in Pilgrim’s case the containment upgrade is scheduled for completion following its next refueling outage in Spring 2017. On June 24, 2016, over three years after the Order was issued, 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 to profit from operations, avoid Fukushima's economic consequences for US reactor upgrades and hide from public disclosure the significant public safety risks identified in the NRC Order that arise out of non-compliant operation. Entergy’s filed its request for an extension 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 seek to legitimately change the Order's compliance requirements for Pilgrim to avoid disclosure and upgrade costs through the license amendment process by submitting to a public hearing as required by law, then the NRC must not allow Pilgrim to refuel in 2017 and revoke it's operating license for failure to comply.
“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.