Coakley lobbies NRC to review Pilgrim safety

By Beth Daley
Globe Staff / May 3, 2011

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State Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to give the Pilgrim Nuclear Station permission to operate another 20 years until it is clear it can operate safely.

Coakley, who has raised numerous safety concerns in recent years about the storage of spent fuel rods at the power-generating plant in Plymouth, said the radiation leak from a spent fuel pool at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant underscores the need for more review of the pools at US reactors.

The Pilgrim plant, which has the same basic design as the Fukushima facility, has applied for permission to operate after its license expires next year.

“Over the last five years, my office has consistently raised serious concerns about the storage of spent fuel at Pilgrim,’’ said Coakley. “The accident in Japan shows there are many outstanding issues and concerns that the NRC needs to fully consider’’ before Pilgrim’s owner, the Entergy Corp., “is given a 20-year license extension.’’

The Japan crisis has sparked calls for new reviews of US nuclear plants and their radioactive waste, and while the NRC is examining plants, it “has not ruled at this juncture that any pending licensing review should be put on hold,’’ said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the federal agency. Since the Japan nuclear crisis stemming from a March massive earthquake and tsunami took place, the NRC has issued a 20-year license renewal to Vermont Yankee in Vernon, near the Massachusetts border.

It is unclear when the NRC will issue a decision on the Pilgrim license, but there is at least one outstanding issue that must be resolved, stemming from a challenge by a group opposed to Pilgrim’s relicensing.

Entergy released a statement saying its legal team was reviewing the attorney general’s request, and “as far as Pilgrim is concerned, we have met all the NRC’s requirements for license renewal, and are awaiting the NRC’s decision on our license renewal application.’’

Beth Daley can be reached at