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January 07. 2013 11:05PM

Court denies claims about Seabrook re-licensing

SEABROOK - Groups opposed to the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant are unhappy with a Boston court's decision to deny their contention that NextEra Energy did not do enough to consider alternative sources of energy in their license renewal application.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals denied the petition for review in a lengthy decision issued Jan. 4.

The court found that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) did not act "arbitrarily or capriciously" in denying the admissibility of the petitioners' contention relating to the feasibility of offshore wind power as a reasonable alternative to re-licensing the power plant.

The petitioners included the Maryland-based group Beyond Nuclear, the New Hampshire Sierra Club and the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League.

In a statement released by those organizations on Monday, they said the court's decision ignores "the meaningful contribution to jobs and the environment that renewable energy could provide."

The court found that offshore wind power does not offer a reasonable alternative to the baseload power the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant provides, about 1,245 megawatts.

In addition to operating nuclear power plants, NextEra Energy is the leading generator of wind power in North America, but concluded in an environmental report associated with its application for license renewal at Seabrook that it was not a reasonable alternative as a source of baseload electricity.

The groups were challenging the plant's application for a 20-year license extension on the grounds of the environmental report.

On March 8, the NRC issued a decision denying the admission of the contention in which the three groups questioned and sought a hearing on the conclusion of the environmental report that said offshore wind was not a reasonable alternative to the re-licensing of Seabrook.

The decision overturned a previous decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board.

Doug Bogen, executive director of Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, expressed displeasure that the groups were not being allowed into the public hearing process.

"NRC intransigence in addition to state government inaction has practically guaranteed that the public will have no voice when it comes to a key future energy policy decision - the re-licensing of our local nuclear plant," Bogen said.

NextEra applied for a license extension on May 25, 2010. The current license expires on March 15, 2030. The renewal would extend the license to 2050.

In the ruling, the court said if new information about the technical and economic feasibility of offshore wind as a source of baseload power becomes available prior to Seabrook's license renewal, a new contention may be filed.



gmacalaster@newstote.com


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