Yesterday, the NRC also announced that Vermont Yankee had passed its annual review with All Green (highest quality) indicators for safety.
The latest kerfuffle was about contentions by the New England Coalition, a long-term anti-nuclear group based in Maine. They carefully analyze whatever the NRC is investigating as a possible generic safety question, and immediately bring a contention that Vermont Yankee must be adhere to as-yet-unannounced standards that the NRC may someday-in-the-future decide to promulgate. The latest contention was the issue of water in electric cabling.
In my earlier blog post, I pointed out that this was equivalent to telling a business owner that he couldn't open a business because they were still deciding on some type of regulation about signs. If the problem was an immediate safety issue, the NRC would have acted, not put the issue up for review. If an issue is up for review, all plants can await the NRC's ruling on what should be done. The NRC finally recognized this.
Just to note: the person filing contentions from New England Coalition is also the man who boasted of getting state regulators "by the short hairs" about decommissioning. Looks like the NRC broke free of this grip.
Political Pressure on the NRC
Various senators and congressmen have put pressure on the NRC about Vermont Yankee in recent days.
Republican Politicians: Two Republican senators, James Inhofe and David Vitter, recently objected to the lengthy delays of the NRC in relicensing some plants.
Vermont Politicians: The Vermont congressional delegations went to the NRC to try to persuade it to forbid Vermont Yankee from using the SAFSTOR decommissioning option. Like our governor, the delegation seems to have forgotten that the state signed an agreement allowing SAFSTOR as an option. The NRC can't break that agreement. Or if it can, it can also take away the state's powers to regulate the plant. THAT would be interesting!
Assuming they are reasonable, who is NRC is more likely to listen to?
- Senators telling them to do their job without lengthy delays
- Senators telling them to beat up a power plant's agreement with a state
The NRC chose to do their job, thank heavens!
Or, if you don't like reason, try politics.
Who will the NRC listen to?
- A true-blue state that has three total votes (2 senators, 1 congressman) and is sure to vote with Obama's plans, whatever the NRC does.
- Populous Republican states, whose congressional delegations can conceivably help (or not block) Obama initiatives.
This question has an underlying assumption that the NRC is influenced by politics. I hope that is not true. Still, it's nice when reason and politics actually work in the same direction.
I am elated to see Vermont Yankee get relicensed!
I also want to recommend the Idaho Samizdat post on the renewal, with reactions from anti-nuclear groups and a perspective on the state situation. As usual, Dan Yurman pulls it all together!