Seabrook Station's owner looks for 20 more years to operate
By GRETYL MACALASTER Union Leader Correspondent
SEABROOK - NextEra Energy focused on economics during Seabrook Station's annual media briefing Wednesday.
As the nuclear power station pursues a 20-year license renewal, it is working to educate the public about not only the clean energy benefits of the station, but of the economic benefits to the region.
About 1,000 workers are employed at Seabrook Station with an annual payroll of about $100 million. Every 18 months an additional 1,000 workers come to Seabrook to assist with planned refueling outages, which spokesman Alan Griffith said injects another $4 million into the regional economy.
The station also pays about $22 million in property taxes annually to Seabrook, Hampton and Hampton Falls.
Seabrook Station has been online since 1990 and provides power to more than 1.4 million homes and businesses when the plant is fully operational.
But nuclear power, particularly in the Northeast, continues to be a divisive issue, Griffith said.
"One of the concerns is how can a plant operate for so long so safely and it's because of the amount of maintenance done regularly," Griffith said.
NextEra has a license to operate until 2030 but has already begun the process of renewing the license for another 20 years. But the issue of Alkali-Silica Reaction, or ASR, found in 12 localized areas of concrete at the plant, has delayed their application. ASR was first discovered by NextEra at the station in 2010.
ASR causes concrete degradation in localized areas and is common in bridges and other transportation infrastructure, but the discovery of ASR at Seabrook marks the first time it has been identified at a nuclear power plant in the United States.
NextEra is currently involved in long-range testing and planning on how to deal with the ASR issue.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said they will not consider Seabrook Station's license renewal application until they are satisfied with NextEra's plan to deal with ASR.
Griffith said it will take at least another year for a report on the issue to be complete.
The University of Texas is currently conducting structural integrity testing to provide NextEra with a full understanding of the ASR issue.
On Dec. 11, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding a public meeting in Hampton to discuss the ASR issue.
The NRC is also holding off on making any final licensing decisions until the national Waste Confidence Decision is decided.
The WCD deals with a central repository for nuclear waste in the nation.
On Dec. 5, Seabrook Station will conduct a test of its emergency siren system within the 10-mile evacuation protection zone. All 121 sirens in 23 communities between Massachusetts and New Hampshire will sound for about three minutes beginning at 12:30 p.m. It is the fourth year in a row Seabrook Station has conducted the test.