The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Tuesday said it renewed the operating license for the 1972-commissioned Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., for 20 more years despite objections by outgoing NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko.

The new license will now expire June 8, 2032. Plant operator Entergy Nuclear Operations applied to extend the 685-MW boiling water reactor’s operational life in January 2006, making the NRC’s review of that company’s license renewal the longest renewal proceeding to date.

“After reviewing the plant’s safety systems and specifications, the staff concluded that there were no safety concerns that would preclude license renewal and that the applicant had effectively demonstrated the capability to manage the effects of plant aging,” the NRC said. The review processes included several inspections and audits at the plant conducted by NRC staff to verify information provided in the application.

Three of the federal body’s five commissioners—Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, William Magwood, and William Ostendorff—voted in favor of the new license; Jaczko opposed, and Commissioner George Apostolakis did not vote. “While I appreciate the need to have an appropriate procedure for bringing this process to completion, the current approach that my colleagues on the Commission support is unprecedented in license renewal proceedings and provides little basis for action," said Jaczko in comments associated with the license renewal.

Motions to reopen the adjudicatory hearing contesting the license renewal application are pending before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board and the commission. Under NRC policy, a decision to issue a renewed license before a hearing’s completion requires the approval of the commission, which was granted in a Staff Requirements Memorandum issued May 25.

Without the license renewal, Entergy could continue to operate the Pilgrim reactor after its license expires on June 8 under “timely renewal” provisions in NRC regulations, which would keep the current license in effect while the adjudication continues. Renewal of the license means new license conditions take effect, requiring Entergy to implement age-management policies and programs designed to ensure safety during the period of extended operations.

Sources: POWERnews, NRC, Entergy