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NRC Says Indian Point Relicensing Review Will Take Longer

Tony Fischer, flickr

The license renewal process for New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant is growing longer. A request from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for more information from Entergy is adding at least a few months.

There are several pieces of the license renewal procedure for Westchester-based Indian Point. One of those pieces has been delayed, pushing back a final decision.

That’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission Spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The reason for the delay in the second phase of the hearing is one of the documents on which the hearing would be based is not ready – a supplement to the NRC Safety Evaluation Report for the renewal application. NRC is still issuing to Indian Point parent Entergy Requests for Additional Information regarding what programs are in place for managing aging reactor components to ensure the continued safe operation of Indian Point.

The parties refer to those who are active participants in the hearing; specifically, NRC staff, Entergy, New York State, and two environmental groups that want the plant shut down: Riverkeeper and Clearwater. The judges are from the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The first phase of the hearing began in the fall of 2012. The judges are still reviewing the contentions that were the subject of the first phase, and the NRC’s Sheehan says they are expected to soon issue a ruling. The second phase of the hearing, Sheehan points out, would also involve any contentions to an NRC supplement to a 2010 environmental study. The NRC issued the supplement in June, and Riverkeeper, for one, took issue with the supplement’s findings.

Entergy Spokesman Jerry Nappi says the NRC has spent more than 27,000 hours on the review and inspection process for Indian Point’s license renewal since 2007.  He says this comprehensive process should help reassure the public that the plant is being thoroughly reviewed and can operate safely for many years to come.

The NRC’s Sheehan says something else is holding up the license renewal process for Indian Point – a national matter known as the waste confidence decision.

A public meeting was held in Westchester’s Tarrytown recently, and the NRC has been holding similar meetings across the country. Again, Sheehan.

The license for Indian Point 2 expired in September, but the reactor is permitted to continue operating until the NRC renders a decision. The license for Indian Point 3 expires in December 2015. The decision is for the application as a whole, which covers both reactors.

Meanwhile, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in 2010 denied a water quality permit for Indian Point, a permit that is necessary for relicensing. Entergy is contesting that denial and Nappi says hearings for this still are in progress.

In addition, New York State’s Department of State needs to certify that Indian Point is in compliance with coastal zone policies. Without this DOS certification, the NRC is prohibited from renewing Entergy’s license. The NRC’s Sheehan says NRC staff expects to consult with the state and Entergy regarding Coastal Zone Management Act issues, and points out such consultation is procedural.

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