Environmental group seeks to intervene in Limerick license extension

    A national environmental group is seeking to intervene in the relicensing process for the Limerick nuclear power plant in Montgomery County.

    The operating license for the older of the two reactors on the Schuylkill River does not expire until 2024, but owner Exelon has already filed an application for a 20-year renewal.

    The application does not include an analysis that is standard for recertification of U.S. plants–a “severe accident mitigation alternatives analysis.” The study looks at whether cost-effective improvements to the plant can be made that would reduce the impact of a severe accident.

    In its renewal application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Exelon said it is exempt from the requirement because, unlike many other power plants, it did a similar analysis in 1989 and updated it in 1996.

    “We’ve done the safety analysis as part of the initial operating license, and then we’ve continued to do other safety analysis through the years,” said Exelon spokeswoman April Schilpt. “All of that information is included in the license application.”

    The Natural Resources Defense Council argued that analysis is not adequate. The group has filed a petition to intervene in the relicensing process, saying it should be updated to, among other things, include new population data.

    “An analysis of cost-beneficial upgrades to a nuclear power plant has to take into account the accident consequence to a population today,” said NRDC senior scientist Matthew McKinzie. “And it ought to project that population growth forward.”

    Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said a three-judge panel will look at the environmental group’s petition and decide whether it warrants a hearing.

    In June, Exelon filed an application to extend the operating licenses for the two Limerick generation stations for 20 years.

    Nuclear plants around the country are getting license renewals, but sometimes only on the condition of making improvements.

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