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NRDC Opposing License Renewal For Limerick Reactors

The Exelon Corporation had initially requested a 20-year extension for both units of the Limerick facility, but they now find themselves amongst a growing list of nuclear facilities facing legal action.

Following last month's appellate court ruling, which called into question the claim that spent fuel-rods could be stored safely up to 60 years after a plant shuts down, The National Resources Defense Council has filed a motion with the which seeks to put a halt to the license renewal process for both reactors at the Limerick Generating Station.

The Exelon Corporation had initially requested a during June of 2011, but they now find themselves amongst a growing list of nuclear facilities facing legal action in the wake of the court's decision.

"There are other similar challenges being brought against other plants, for instance the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in West Chester, New York," said Neil Sheehan, a public affairs officer with the NRC.  "Whether these multiple challenges will be combined remains to be seen, but that's a distinct possibility."

The issue at hand is the safe storage of spent fuel rods, which Sheehan said the NRC initially rated at 30 years beyond the shutdown of a nuclear facility.

"[We issued the waste confidence decision] when it still appeared that prospects were good for a federal repository," said Sheehan. "The work was proceeding on Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but Yucca has been put on hold, and it may be dead."

With no long-term solution for the housing of nuclear waste, the NRC issued an updated waste confidence decision stating that the commission believed the spent fuel rods could be safely stored up to 60 years following the shutdown of a nuclear facility. The District of Columbia Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals decided otherwise, citing environmental concerns in their June 8 decision:

In concluding that spent nuclear fuel can safely be stored in on-site storage pools for a period of 60 years after the end of a plant's life -- instead of 30 -- the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted what it purports to be an environmental assessment, which found that extending the time for storage would have no significant environmental impact.

This analysis was conducted in generic fashion by looking to environmental risks across the board at nuclear plants, rather than by conducting a site-by-site analysis of each specific nuclear plant. Two key risks that the NRC examined in its environmental assessment were the risk of environmental harm due to pool leakage and the risk of a fire resulting from the fuel rods becoming exposed to air.

We conclude that the commission's environmental assessment and resulting finding of no significant impact (FONSI) are not supported by substantial evidence on the record because the commission failed to properly examine the risk of leaks in a forward-looking fashion and failed to examine the potential consequences of pool fires.

The two current protocols for the on-site disposal of spent fuel rods include storing the nuclear fuel in the plant's spent-fuel pools or placing them in dry-cask storage, which allows the facility to store them on dry-cask storage pads outside of the plant.

"They do have two acceptable methods of storing the fuel on-site for now," said Sheehan.

Since neither protocol deals with the long-term disposal of the nuclear waste, the National Resources Defense Council argues that a license extension should not be granted until a viable long-term storage strategy is in place.

Without an extension, the 40-year license for Unit 1 of the Limerick Generating Station is set to expire on October 26, 2024, and the 40-year license for Unit 2 will expire on June 22, 2029.

For more information on the appellate court's ruling, as well as the motion filed by the NRDC, check out the PDF files which accompany this article.

Limerick Resident July 13, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Why don't we recycle spent fuel rods like France does? Oh yeah, Carter nixed that. Maybe they should look into changing that decision.
Stephen Eickhoff July 13, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I'm announcing my opposition to the NRDC. How about offering solutions, instead of creating more problems? NRDC is the special interest of "no". No fracking, no oil drilling, and I assume NO nuclear power since they don't offer that in their list of green energy solutions. We already tried throwing the tax dollars earned by hard-working Americans at failures like Solyndra and A123. Special interests are acting like this is a joke-- and this is from a guy who switched his electricity supply to 100% green energy and is in the middle of an off-grid home solar project.
Harry July 14, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Tree huggers, they always want it both ways. No nuclear, no coal, no oil fired, so how do they suppose they are going to charge their smart phones and hybrid/electric cars? Their hero in the white house is bankrupting this country by bailing out companies that have no business being in business. He's subsidized millions of solar panels that now dot the landscape, his buddies in new england are fighting wind power, so I'm just confused as to how they intend to power all their needs.
SMYRNA-X July 14, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Well said by all
Janis C Sheridan July 14, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Ahhh, the sounds of common sense....a breath of fresh air!!!
tom blair July 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM
So how will you replace 2,600 MW of power generating 24x7?
Tom Bartman July 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM
So let's just leave 2.2 million homes with no power. Brilliant.
Lorraine Ruppe September 03, 2012 at 12:44 AM
The clowns are back again!-So let's just keep living in fear of another meltdown by the fear mongering Exelon corporation and let us 2 million plus people from here to Philadelphia continue drinking and bathing in contaminated, radiated mine pit water and breathing toxic air pollution 24/7 that comes from the towers while Exelon fattens their exploding pockets, and my families and friends and pets get more and more cancer every year.

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