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Nuclear regulators extend Seabrook plant’s license to 2050

Opponents have urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to renew the license, citing concerns about growing cracks in the plant’s concrete containment dome and other critical parts of the sprawling complex.
Opponents have urged the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to renew the license, citing concerns about growing cracks in the plant’s concrete containment dome and other critical parts of the sprawling complex.(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file 2011)

After years of negotiations and vocal opposition, the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire will have its license to operate extended until 2050, officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday.

The agency’s decision comes despite recent petitions filed by opponents to delay the extension.

The extension will be granted next week, according to a document released the commission.

The plant’s initial license was set to expire in 2030.

Opponents have urged the commission not to renew the license, citing concerns about growing cracks in the plant’s concrete containment dome and other critical parts of the sprawling complex.

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US Senator Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the commission’s decision, made before a planned hearing this summer, “is a subversion of the public input process and is unnecessarily premature.”

“Seabrook’s license will not expire for another 11 years,” said Markey in a statement. “All parties involved can afford to wait and hear out the safety concerns raised by local residents before any amendment or relicensing decisions are made.”

Markey was among a trio of Massachusetts lawmakers who recently raised concerns about how NextEra Energy, the Florida company that owns the plant, planned to address the structural degradation and accused regulators of ignoring local concerns.

NextEra Energy spokesman Peter Robbins said Tuesday, “We’re pleased to be nearing the end of this very thorough process and look forward to continuing to provide emissions-free electricity for New England for years to come.”

In a Feb. 26 letter, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey asked the commission to make time at the next public meeting about Seabrook to discuss the off-site emergency response plan for the plant, “including the ability of residents in the surrounding communities to evacuate in the event of an emergency.” She wanted Massachusetts residents to have the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions about the plan, according to the letter.

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The New Hampshire attorney general’s office declined to comment on Thursday.

Seabrook is one of only three nuclear power plants remaining in New England. Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is scheduled to close by this June.

A few weeks ago, a group from Newburyport filed an emergency petition with the commission that sought immediate action “to ensure that the NRC will uphold its duty to protect the public,” said Natalie Hildt Treat, executive director of the C-10 Research & Education Foundation, which for years has been monitoring radiation from the plant.

“NRC staff has been intent on pushing this through all along,” she said in a Tuesday statement. “They’re choosing to disregard C-10’s emergency petition despite its merits, because it doesn’t fit neatly into their regulatory model.”

The group’s president, Patricia Skibbee, said the “whole process has been bankrupt, in that the NRC allowed NextEra, the plant’s owner, to hire and pay for its own private consultants.”


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @danny__mcdonald. David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.