NRDC gets the legal ball rolling in appeal of Limerick plant’s license renewal

The Natural Resources Defense Council on March 23 filed its opening brief at a federal appeals court in a case it brought last November against the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the re-licensing of the Limerick Generating Station of Exelon Generation Co. LLC.

The NRDC is seeking review of certain orders of the NRC and the Atomic Safety Licensing Board related to Limerick Generating Station Units 1 and 2, including the October 2014 Renewed Facility Operating License Nos. NPF–39 and NPF–85 issued to Exelon Generation for the continued operation of these units. The NRDC said its requests for intervention and a hearing in the relicensing proceeding were improperly denied by the commission. The case is being handled at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

In connection with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the relicensing of Limerick, NRDC told the court that it timely sought to intervene and pursue contentions over the failure to adequately consider Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMAs) – i.e., measures that may seriously diminish the otherwise catastrophic consequences of a severe nuclear accident at the facility, located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The commission initially found the request to intervene barred by a commission regulation, ruling that NRDC could only intervene by obtaining a “waiver” of the regulation – and subsequently denied NRDC’s waiver request, the brief said.

The issues being presented to the appeals court are:

  • Whether the commission erred in ruling NRDC may only obtain a hearing on its SAMA contentions through a regulatory “waiver.”
  • Whether the commission erred in denying NRDC’s waiver petition.
  • Whether NEPA requires the Commission to meaningfully consider SAMAs before relicensing the Limerick Plant, and, if so, whether the commission may preclude NRDC from administratively challenging, or ultimately obtaining judicial review over, the adequacy of that consideration.

The NRC’s opening brief is due to be filed on April 22.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.