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NRC Denies Another Pilgrim Watch Request

Another Pilgrim Watch request for a hearing was denied by the NRC this week, unholding a ruling made last July by an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that denied a Pilgrim Watch hearing on two post-Fukushima orders issued by the agency.

According to a release from NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan, one of the orders Pilgrim Watch sought to challenge deals with reliable hardened vents at Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) Mark I and II plants. Pilgrim is a BWR Mark I facility. The other requires enhanced spent fuel pool instrumentation. Both orders were issued in March 2012. Oral arguments on the hearing request were conducted by the ASLB panel last year in Boston.

The Commission, in upholding the ASLB panel, points to a 1983 decision that found a party can challenge an order on the basis that its implementation would diminish plant safety but not to argue that the order is in need of improvements. (The full decision is attached)

The first challenged Order requires certain licensees of boiling water reactor facilities with Mark I and Mark II containments to install reliable hardened venting systems to preserve core and containment cooling in order to prevent core damage in the event of an accident.

The second challenged Order requires identified licensees to enhance spent fuel pool instrumentation, to ensure that operators have a reliable means of remotely monitoring wide-range spent fuel pool levels to effectively prioritize event mitigation and recovery actions during a beyond-design-basis external event.

As relevant here, each Order stated that the licensee and “any other person adversely affected” by the Order could request a hearing on the Order.4 Each Order also specified that “[i]f a hearing is held, the issue to be considered at such hearing shall be whether this Order should be sustained.” None of the licensees to whom the Orders were addressed requested a hearing.

Pilgrim Watch—an organization that represents certain individuals living near, and  potentially affected by activities at, Pilgrim—requested hearings on both Orders. Pilgrim Watch argued that the Orders were inadequate to protect public health and safety in various specific respects.

  • First, Pilgrim Watch argued, the Hardened Vents Order should require the installation of filters in the direct torus vents to prevent a radioactive release when the vents are opened.
  • Second, Pilgrim Watch asserted that the Hardened Vents Order should require a passive release mechanism, such as a rupture disc, that would open the direct torus vents without active operator intervention.
  • Finally, Pilgrim Watch claimed that the Spent Fuel Pool Instrumentation Order is inadequate because it does not require the licensee to reduce density of fuel in the pools, or to remove fuel assemblies that are five years old or greater to dry cask storage. Pilgrim Watch requested hearings to “redress inadequacies of past and future modifications to containment with respect to [each § 2.202 order].”

The Board rejected Pilgrim Watch’s hearing requests because the concerns raisedtherein are beyond the proceedings’ scope. Relying on the 1983 decision in Bellotti v. NRC, the Board held that Pilgrim Watch cannot enter these proceedings in order to argue that safetymodifications additional to those in the Orders should be implemented.

From a release from NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan

Theodore Bosen February 01, 2013 at 12:46 AM
"Relying on the 1983 decision in Bellotti v. NRC, the Board held that Pilgrim Watch cannot enter these proceedings in order to argue that safety modifications additional to those in the Orders should be implemented." /So we, the public, can object to an order as not sufficient to protect public safety, but we can't ask for a safer one! Catch-22
wedge February 01, 2013 at 01:19 PM
Should we be surprised?
H Shamir February 01, 2013 at 03:34 PM
This is unconscionable!! They are abrogating their responsibility to the public.

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