Metro

Coakley asks NRC to rethink licensing of Pilgrim N-plant

Says plant failure in Japan relevant

Attorney General Martha Coakley is asking the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to review the refusal of its licensing board to consider the impact of the recent nuclear disaster in Japan on relicensing procedures for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

The Fukushima power plant was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in March, resulting in a large release of radioactive material.

During the Pilgrim plant’s relicensing process in 2006, Coakley said that an accident involving the spent fuel pool at Pilgrim could pose a significant risk to public safety and the environment and that the NRC should revise its regulations to address these risks, Coakley’s office said yesterday.

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission refused, saying the risks posed by spent fuel pools were insignificant, officials said.

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After the disaster in Japan in 2011, Coakley’s office filed a petition asking the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which operates under the NRC, not to issue a final relicensing decision for Pilgrim until the commission reviewed new information resulting from Fukushima.

“In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, we believe the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must fully consider whether adequate measures have been taken at Pilgrim to minimize the public safety and environmental risks associated with spent fuel pools,’’ Coakley said.

In the petition, Coakley pointed out that the problems at the Fukushima plant were consistent with those she highlighted in 2006.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board denied the petition and ruled that the incident in Japan does not present new and significant information to consider. The board also said that the risk analysis used for the plant does not require consideration of actual nuclear accidents.

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“We’re not a direct party in this, so it would be inappropriate for us to comment,’’ said Carol Wightman, a Pilgrim spokeswoman.

Coakley said that “it has never been our office’s intention to ban the use of nuclear energy in Massachusetts.’’

“Nuclear energy, when done right,’’ she said, “can play a valuable role in the future of our energy supply.’’

Amanda Cedrone can be reached at acedrone@globe.com.