A federal licensing board of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted a petition filed by Beyond Nuclear to bring a law suit challenging NextEra Energy’s application to extend the operating license of its Seabrook nuclear power plant on the New Hampshire coast from 2030 to 2050. NextEra’s application is being submitted 20 years in advance of Seabrook’s current operating license’s expiration date. Beyond Nuclear is joined by the New Hampshire Sierra Club and the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League alleging that NextEra failed to meet its legal obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to evaluate less harmful energy alternatives. As much as 5000 megawatts electricity generated through interconnected offshore and deepwater wind power projects is scheduled to be operational in the Gulf of Maine by 2030. The combination of more interconnected wind energy farms deployed in deep water off the coast of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island will be generating additional gigawatts of clean, safe, and affordable renewable electricity by the requested federal relicensing period. The licensing board agreed with Beyond Nuclear that there are "consequences" to filing a request for federal action nearly two decades in advance of the license expiration date. It is simply not reasonable or rational of the power company to say that renewable energy will not be feasible or commercially viable by 2030.
The federal licensing board also granted standing to the New England Coalition and Friends of the Coast and admitted three of four originally filed contentions regarding NextEra's lack of age management plans for miles of onsite buried electrical cables and power transformers and the misrepresentation of analysis for the amount of radiation released in a severe nuclear accident and its environmental and economic consequences.
The five petitioning groups will now seek to prevail against an onslaught of adversarial legal motions filed by both the power company and the NRC’s own Office of General Counsel to dismiss or whittle away the scope of the law suit. A public hearing before the three member NRC licensing board on these contentions could occur early in 2012.