Beyond Nuclear et. al. take NRC to federal court in Seabrook relicensing: Wind power vs. nuclear power
Three environmental groups (Beyond Nuclear, Seacoast Anti-Pollution League and the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club) have taken the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Boston, MA) in a legal challenge to NextEra Corporation’s application to extend the operating license of New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear generating station application from 2030 to 2050.
The public’s legal suit was filed in Boston on August 16, 2012 after the NRC’s five member Commission unanimously reversed an earlier ruling of the agency’s own licensing board admitting the citizen groups into the re-licensing hearing on the future of offshore deepwater wind in the Gulf of Maine as an energy alternative to a 20-year license extension of the nuclear power station. The groups claim that the Commission’s decision to overrule the licensing board decision has caused “procedural injury” and violates the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The citizen groups want the court to remedy this injury by ordering NRC to re-admit the groups back into Seabrook hearing process to review the wind energy alternative to the relicensing of the nuclear power station for 2030 to 2050. Oral arguments by the parties in the case are likely to be heard in the Boston federal court by early 2013.
In May 2010 NextEra Seabrook made application to the NRC to extend their current 40-year operating license of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in Seabrook, NH which expires in 2030 for another 20 years through 2050. The three environmental groups petitioned the NRC on October 20, 2010 in request of a public hearing and charged that the power company did not conduct an adequate environmental review of less harmful energy alternatives as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Specifically, the groups presented expert documents excluded by NextEra from its application demonstrating that offshore deepwater wind is a reasonable and less environmentally harmful energy alternative to the Seabrook license extension in 2030.
On February 15, 2011, the NRC Atomic Safety Licensing Board issued an Order granting the environmental groups a hearing as provided under NEPA to require the industry to take a “hard look” at a current plan to generate 5 Giga-watts (5000 Megawatts) of interconnected deepwater wind energy farms floating 10 to 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Maine by 2030. On February 25, 2011, NextEra appealed the licensing board Order to the five member Commission. On March 8, 2012, the Commission issued an Order upholding the NextEra appeal and denying the three parties admission to a NEPA hearing.