Bill would add nuclear relicensing rule

A House bill introduced Wednesday would delay the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) ability to renew licenses for aging nuclear reactors.

The NRC would be barred from renewing licenses for reactors with more than 10 years left on their current ones under legislation (H.R. 6554) co-sponsored by Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Edward Markey and John Tierney.

ADVERTISEMENT
They said the NRC too frequently rubber-stamps 20-year extensions to licenses that are supposed to last 40 years. They said that could endanger people living near nuclear power plants.

“It seems crazy that the NRC would even consider relicensing aging nuclear plants more than a decade before its license expires,” Tierney said in a Wednesday statement. “As these facilities age, safety concerns inevitably arise."

The NRC declined to comment on the bill.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, told The Hill on Thursday that the bill would constrain energy firms’ abilities to plan beyond a 10-year window, and that the legislation would not enhance safety.

“Regardless of their age, all nuclear energy facilities must continuously meet strict safety standards to continue operations,” Tony Pietrangelo, the group’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, told The Hill.

The lawmakers said the announcement of additional NRC inspections to evaluate concrete degradation at the Seabrook Nuclear facility in Seabrook, N.H., helped spark the bill.

“Allowing the NRC to give a 60-year long clean bill of health to reactors that are in their nuclear adolescence, especially one with documented safety issues such as Seabrook, is like allowing a doctor to assure a twenty year-old smoker they will never get lung cancer,” Markey said in a Wednesday statement.