“Federal regulators will delay a decision on renewing Indian Point’s operating license an additional four months – until late summer 2010 – to give them more time to evaluate safety and environmental issues at the nuclear plant.
“We have said from the beginning that we are committed to a thorough and rigorous review of the Indian Point license renewal application. That has not changed,” said Brian Holian, director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Division of License Renewal. “The fact that we will, when necessary, take additional time to address outstanding issues underscores our determination to give this application our full measure of attention.”
Staffers at the agency want more time to review additional information provided by the plant’s owner, Entergy Nuclear; to respond to a record number of contentions opponents filed against the application; and to address generic issues presented by the agency’s Office of Inspector General in a recent report on the NRC’s license renewal program.
NRC officials said the “exceptionally high” number of public comments received on environmental questions also played a role in extending the schedule.
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said the schedule is up to the NRC, and the company would follow whatever time frame the regulators set.
“Entergy appreciates the NRC’s thoroughness in ensuring a comprehensive review of the issues and will continue to provide the NRC with the information it needs,” Steets said.
Indian Point is seeking to extend its operating licenses for Indian Point 2 to 2033 and for Indian Point 3 to 2035. Indian Point 1 has been closed since 1974 and is not part of the application, which the company submitted in April 2007.
The NRC’s standard schedule for a license renewal is 22 to 30 months, depending on whether a hearing is required to review contentions brought by those who oppose the extension or have questions that regulators agree need to be more fully explored.
Indian Point’s review schedule was pushed back almost from the beginning as the NRC allowed the company to amend its application and started the clock as of Aug. 1, 2007.
NRC officials said a longer process was “likely” at that point, given the amount of public opposition to the nuclear plant, which first started producing electricity in 1962 and has faced a higher- than-average number of safety and environmental issues almost from the beginning.
Opposition to the plant escalated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, primarily because one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center flew over Indian Point, and government reports indicated that terrorist leaders had copies of plans for American nuclear plants.
That opposition has produced the largest number of contentions in the NRC’s history of license renewal reviews, and the only time a host state has joined in fighting relicensing.
As of now, the NRC expects to have a draft environmental impact report ready by mid-December and a draft safety report by mid-January 2009.
A public meeting on the environmental issues is set for February 2009. No meeting on the safety report has been set.
Under NRC regulations, the original operating license for a commercial nuclear power plant has a term of 40 years. The license can be renewed in 20-year increments if NRC requirements are met.