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Peach Bottom Nuclear Reactor Should Not Be Relicensed

Nov. 7, 2001

Peach Bottom Nuclear Reactor Should Not Be Relicensed

Reactors Are Terrorist Targets; Aging Reactors Pose Safety Hazards,
Generate Dangerous Waste

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? The Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania should not be relicensed because ? like reactors throughout the country ? it is a terrorist target and its equipment will pose safety hazards for surrounding communities as it ages, Public Citizen told federal officials today.

Because of these reasons, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) should halt its process for relicensing Peach Bottom, Public Citizen said in comments filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The comments coincide with two public hearings the NRC is holding today on the reactor?s relicensing. The hearings are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and?7 p.m. at the Peach Bottom Inn, 6085 Delta Road in Delta, Pa.

“Security is the elephant in the nuclear power industry?s living room,” said Hugh Jackson, policy analyst with Public Citizen. “Yet the NRC is continuing to move forward and relicense old nuclear power plants as if the September attacks never happened.”

Nuclear power plants were originally licensed for 40 years. License renewals would allow them to operate for an additional 20 years. The licenses for Units 2 and 3 at Peach Bottom, located 45 miles west of Philadelphia, are scheduled to expire in 2013 and 2014 respectively. (Unit 1, which was built using a more primitive design, ran for just seven years and was shut down in 1974 because of mechanical problems.)

In the weeks since Sept. 11, the NRC has continued to process relicensing applications as if there were no heightened concerns about the safety of commercial nuclear facilities. Many people, though, are worried. Mock drills have shown nuclear plants to be relatively easily accessed by intruders, and a disciple of Osama bin Laden has been quoted in the news as saying that the terrorists who struck on Sept. 11 should have targeted a nuclear plant.

“Relicensing old nuclear power plants, which will continue to tempt terrorists far, far into the future, should never have been started in the first place, and it certainly shouldn?t be done now,” Jackson said.

Public Citizen has long opposed the relicensing of nuclear power plants, citing, among other issues, increased risks from aging reactors. Reactor vessels can become brittle over time, and steam generator tubes can deteriorate and leak, potentially releasing radiation into the air. The longer a reactor operates, the more nuclear waste it generates. Also, the nation still has no workable solution for the disposal of deadly nuclear waste.

Public Citizen supports a shift in national energy policy away from fossil and nuclear fuels and toward conservation and renewable energy sources. Public Citizen noted in its comments to the NRC that even the commission?s so-called “generic environmental impact statement” for relicensing nuclear power plants states that “conservation technologies produce enough energy savings to permit the closing of a nuclear plant” in most electricity service areas.

If the NRC persists in processing Exelon?s license renewal application, Public Citizen will call on the NRC to conduct a comprehensive analysis of available conservation technologies as part of the environmental statement to be prepared on Peach Bottom relicensing. Specifically, the NRC should evaluate the potential of conservation and energy efficiencies as the preferred alternative to license renewal.

“The NRC ought to take its own paperwork seriously for a change,” Jackson said. “If it did, the agency would close down most of the 103 reactors in operation around the country.”

Peach Bottom is one of seven nuclear power plants with active relicensing applications. The other plants are Edwin E. Hatch, located northwest of Savannah, Ga.; Turkey Point, located northeast of Miami, Fla.; Surry, located near Williamsburg, Va.; North Anna, located northwest of Richmond, Va.; Catawba, in South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, N.C.; and McGuire, located west of Charlotte, N.C.

The NRC projects that 29 plants will be relicensed over the next six years. The agency already has relicensed three plants: Calvert Cliffs in Maryland; Oconee in South Carolina; and Arkansas Nuclear One.