“Federal nuclear regulators yesterday accepted Indian Point’s relicensing
application to keep the nuclear plants operating until 2035, kicking off
what will likely be a combative review that could last three years.

The acceptance by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also starts a 60-day
period for the public to request and participate in formal hearings on
issues they want the federal government to address during the relicensing

“We’ve just completed our review and we’re at the point where we’re
comfortable enough to go forward,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The window for requesting a hearing is going
to be opened.”

The battle will decide whether nuclear reactors will continue to produce
electricity in the Lower Hudson Valley, part of the nation’s most densely
populated area.

The combatants could end up including everyone from Gov. Eliot Spitzer and
the local congressional delegation and elected officials to environmental
groups and nuclear industry activists.

Entergy Nuclear announced its plan to go for 20-year extensions for Indian
Point 2 and Indian Point 3 in November. The company filed the application
documents three months ago.

Indian Point 2’s license is set to expire Sept. 28, 2013, and Indian Point
3’s on Dec. 12, 2015.

Sheehan acknowledged yesterday that the agency has yet to decline any of the
48 relicensing applications it has accepted as the industry moves well into
middle age, though some were kicked back to the operators for additional
work or knocked out before they were accepted.

“We ask many questions along the way, so that questions do get resolved
during the process,” Sheehan said of the 27- to 35-month review.

Indian Point’s application ran into a delay last month when the NRC found it
lacking on the issue of what type of fuel would be used for backup
generators at Indian Point 2. The company responded by committing to install
a diesel fuel system to replace a natural gas-powered system within a year.

“Their acceptance of the application officially kicks off the process,”
Entergy spokesman Jim Steets said yesterday after learning of the NRC’s
decision. “To that extent, we look forward to making the case for these
plants to continue to operate.”

Yesterday, Spitzer said during an interview with The Journal News Editorial
Board that he continues to seek ways to increase alternative and renewable
methods of producing electricity so that Indian Point can be closed without
losing the 2,000 megawatts of electricity that it produces. That amount is
equivalent to the power needed by about 2 million homes.

He said the state was still looking at its options related to the federal
relicensing review, including intervening and requesting a hearing. He said
he had not made a decision on how he will proceed.

“I’ll be very clear – I’m not a fan of having a nuclear facility where
(Indian Point) is,” Spitzer said. “It just doesn’t make sense. I would like
to see us in a position to close it. I also made it very clear that we can’t
rationally talk about that until we have (alternatives).”

Officials from Riverkeeper, an environmental group that opposes the plants’
operation, said they expect to fight the plants’ renewals as long as

“Although it’s nothing new, the NRC acceptance of Entergy’s applications
fails to address vital environmental concerns Riverkeeper raised … in a
17-page letter to the NRC,” said Lisa Rainwater.

She said Riverkeeper has already pointed to three key concerns: how the
plants’ cooling system affects aquatic life and warms the Hudson River, as
well as continuing leaks of radioactive isotopes tritium and strontium 90.

“We will be intervening in this process,” Rainwater said.”

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