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Nuclear plant Seabrook Station license renewal moves forward

Source: 
Portsmouth Herald

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will move forward with its review of Seabrook Station nuclear power plant’s license renewal process after accepting owner NextEra Energy’s initial proposal for addressing concrete degradation in the plant.

The NRC required NextEra submit preliminary plans for addressing alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in Seabrook Station’s structures before commencing with the review of the license renewal process. Those plans were accepted last week, and the NRC’s review is now expected to be completed by August 2018, according to an Oct. 12 letter to NextEra from the NRC.

If approved, Seabrook Station’s license would be extended to 2050. It is currently set to expire in 2030.

ASR, found in numerous structures at the plant, is considered the most prominent concern for NextEra in its application for a 20-year license extension. The chemical reaction is commonly found in structures like bridges and dams and can lead to gradual movement of concrete. Seabrook Station was the first nuclear power plant in the nation to announce it had discovered ASR in its buildings, making the chemical reaction uncharted territory for the U.S. nuclear industry. Additional ASR was discovered last summer in the containment enclosure building.

NextEra sent its plan to address ASR earlier this year in the form of a license amendment proposal, but the company was told in September it needed to provide more information. The NRC said it needed more details on how NextEra would monitor movement caused by degradation in the actual concrete structures. The commission also sought more information on how the plant’s concrete’s backfill, which strengthens the foundation of concrete structures, will be protected against ASR, as well as more technical information on certain testing of the ASR.

Now that those requests have been satisfied, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the NRC’s next step will be to look to perform a detailed technical review of NextEra’s application. The NRC will also publish a notice in the Federal Register providing an opportunity for any interested party to request a hearing on NextEra’s application, as well as an opportunity to comment on it.

Despite the NRC stating the ASR is not a safety concern in Seabrook Station right now, activists against the nuclear industry have said too little is known about ASR and its effects to keep Seabrook Station open. Groups like No More Fukushimas, based in Newburyport, Massachusetts, have called for the immediate closure of Seabrook Station.

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