House members seek swift Pilgrim license renewal

Several GOP members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to take prompt action and issue a 20-year license renewal for Entergy’s (NYSE: ETR) 660-MW Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts.

Entergy is only weeks away from seeing its current license expiring and Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and three other GOP members are urging quick action.

The NRC staff recommended license renewal for Pilgrim in late April. Pilgrim has also been the site of ongoing labor contract negotiations with Utility Workers Union of America Local 369. In a May 21 letter to the NRC, the GOP members urged NRC to act now on the Pilgrim license, which is scheduled to expire in early June. Entergy filed its application to renew the license in early 2006. Entergy is still awaiting final action, which is normally supposed to take only 22-to-30 months, the congressmen say in the letter.

The Pilgrim license renewal has run into stiff opposition, however. More than 21 contentions and requests to reopen the hearing record have been filed since May 2006 and some opposition claims were filed as recently as this month.

Parties such as Pilgrim Watch and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have raised concerns about license renewal in the wake of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Those who favor Pilgrim relicensing say NRC’s ongoing regulatory and oversight processes will ensure nuclear plant safety.

NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko, who announced May 21 that he would resign his post effective when a replacement is confirmed, has favored lowering the threshold for foes to intervene in the Pilgrim case.

“With Pilgrim’s license expiration date fast approaching, fairness to the applicant takes on additional importance, human importance,” the House members said, adding that 650 people work at Pilgrim.

In another Pilgrim development, Entergy said May 22 that the plant was taken offline. Pilgrim was shut down due to reduced vacuum in the plant’s condenser. “Plant technicians are investigating the cause,” Entergy said in a statement. “The plant will be restarted after a thorough evaluation of the shutdown is conducted and any necessary repairs are made. Prior to the shutdown, the plant had been on line for more than four months.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.