NRC OK’s 20-year extension for Vt. nuclear plant
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant a 20-year license extension yesterday, but the plant must still get state legislative approval to continue operating after its original license expires next year.
The NRC instructed its staff to issue the renewal March 10, the day before the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but then placed a hold on the license because agency staff were too busy aiding Japan. Opponents of the reactor in Vernon, near the Massachusetts border, had hoped the pause would translate into a deeper review of the plant, which has the same design as the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan that is releasing radioactive material.
“Today’s action comes after five years of careful and extensive review and confirms that Vermont Yankee is a safe, reliable source of electricity and capable of operating for another 20 years,’’ Larry Smith, Vermont Yankee spokesman, said in a statement.
NRC officials said yesterday that the staff had completed an in-depth review since Vermont Yankee first filed for an extension in 2006, including an environmental assessment in 2007 and safety evaluation in 2008. The independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards also reviewed the proposal.
Vermont is the only state that requires a nuclear plant to get legislative approval for an extension. Last year, the state Senate voted, 26-4, to close the plant when its license expires next year.
Yesterday, Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont called the NRC’s relicensing action “puzzling.’’
“Fortunately, Vermont has taken steps to close down the aging Yankee plant, and I have urged other states with older nuclear facilities to follow our example and take control of the lifespan of their plants,’’ said Shumlin.
Beth Daley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.