- Four Massachusetts state lawmakers have urged the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to close down NextEra's Seabrook nuclear facility, saying concrete degradation threatens the plant's safe operation and evacuation zones are inadequate, SNL Energy reports.
- An alkali-silica reaction (ASR) has caused cracks in the concrete walls at the plant, though SNL Energy notes the issue has been under observation at the Seabrook plant since 2012 and has delayed relicensing of the facility.
- The 1,244-MW plant's evacuation zone should also be widened, the lawmakers told the NRC, and they criticized the agency for a lack of oversight at the facility.
Construction permits for the SeaBrook station were received in 1976, the facility reached full commercial operations in 1990 and it has requested an extension to its operating license, which expires in 2030. But critics say the ASR issues have degraded the plant's concrete containment walls, and they say federal oversight of the facility has been lax.
"The NRC has failed to provide adequate oversight, particularly over the degradation that plagues the Seabrook Station,” four Massachusetts lawmakers told the agency. “The NRC’s lack of knowledge about the progression of the degradation combined with the non-existent regulatory track record on concrete degradation has already put people of New England at unknown risk.”
Signing onto the letter were: Sens. Kathleen O'Connor Ives and Daniel Wolf, and Reps. Ann-Margaret Ferrante and James Kelcourse. While the group argues the area could not be evacuated in the event of an emergency, they also called for an expansion of the 10-mile radius evacuation zone.
SNL Energy reports the ASR issue has been known for several years and has played a role in delaying Seabrook's relicensing. Federal regulators say they are aware of the issue.
"We consider the structures at the plant to be 'degraded but operable,'" NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan told SNL. "That is based on the structural integrity being maintained by the thick steel rebar inside the walls of plant buildings and other factors. That said, it is incumbent upon NextEra to develop a long-term plan to address the ASR situation before we can render a decision on the license renewal application."