Anti-nuclear groups across U.S. launch legal challenges to stop NRC from extending life of old reactors and to delay construction of new advanced-designed nuclear power plants, armed with findings from NRC's own Fukushima task force

LOS ANGELES , August 12, 2011 () – Legal challenges have been filed by about two dozen environmental groups in an attempt to stop the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from continuing to extend the life of old nuclear reactors and to delay approval of new nuclear projects, reported Reuters on Aug. 11.

The filings on Thursday cited findings from the NRC’s own Fukushima task force and federal law that require the agency to withhold any action until addressing safety concerns in the task force’s review of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant disaster.

Before the NRC issues or renews any reactor license, it must either strengthen regulations to avert severe accident risks or study the environmental implications of not doing so, the groups said in a statement, citing provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Atomic Energy Act, Reuters reported.

The agency will review the filings, said Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesperson, adding that the agency has not yet responded to a petition in which regional environmental groups asked that all nuclear license renewals and new reactor approvals be suspended.

Burnell defended currently-operating reactors, stating that the NRC’s Fukushima task force had deemed them “safe and appropriate to continue operating.”

However, Jim Warren of the North Carolina-based group NC Warn said that the task force warned that “severe accidents must be considered in the U.S.,” and that federal law mandates that the NRC commissioners heed those warnings, reported Reuters.

NC Warn is challenging new reactors proposed by Duke Energy Corp. and Progress Energy Inc.

The NRC has disagreed with how quickly it must move on the task force’s recommendations, including one that calls for an overhaul in the way the nation’s 104 reactors prepare for natural disasters.

Since the March 11 earthquake in Japan, the NRC has relicensed nine older reactors, extending their life by 20 years; and this week, it move ahead with the certification of Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC’s AP100 nuclear design, Reuters reported.

Targeted in the 19 filings on Thursday were nuclear plants operated by Constellation Energy Group, Dominion Resources Inc., DTE Energy Corp., Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., NRG Energy Inc., Energy Future Holdings Corp., Duke Energy, PPL Corp., Progress Energy, NextEra Energy Resources Inc. and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The groups also seek to address relicensing for plants such Indian Point and First Energy’s Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio, in addition to the design certification process for the AP1000.

Also of concern are applications for new reactor licenses, such as Southern Co.'s Vogtle nuclear expansion in Georgia and SCANA Corp.'s Summer plant expansion in South Carolina, reported Reuters.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, London, England, on Aug. 11, 2011.

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