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Activists Warn Against Relicensing Seabrook Nuclear Plant, Where Cracks Are Spreading

Seabrook Nuclear Plant
Jim Richmond via Flickr Creative Commons
Seabrook Nuclear Plant

Critics of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant voiced concerns about the facility’s bid for a new license at an annual federal meeting in Hampton Wednesday night.

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission say the Seacoast plant is currently operating safely, despite cracks spreading through some of its concrete.

It’s the only nuclear plant in the country with that problem, which was first found in 2010.

Stakeholders – including a nuclear watchdog, C-10 Foundation – will spend the next year hashing out a plan address the concrete issue as part of relicensing.

But former New Hampshire state representative Roberta Pevear says she thinks the plant should close.

“If there ever was, start to finish, an accident waiting to happen, Seabrook is it,” she says. “It is totally irresponsible to even consider trying to crank another 20 years out of this doomed old nuclear plant.”

Pevear helped write an evacuation plan for Seabrook in the 1980s, but calls the version of the plan that ended up in place "a joke."

Still, New Hampshire’s latest energy policy calls for keeping Seabrook open as long as possible, without “artificially” shortening its lifespan through state policies.

Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR
A Seacoast resident questions Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials on the safety of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

“It is likely that New England’s carbon emissions would increase significantly if Seabrook Station were to stop generating at capacity,” the strategy says.

“Preserving Seabrook Station as a source of zero-carbon energy is the most realistic and cost-effective means of managing emissions in New Hampshire at scale.”

Opponents of Seabrook said at Wednesday’s meeting they feel Seabrook and other nuclear plants should be exiting the clean energy conversation.

“This is an industry which has served a purpose – it was cleaner than coal, certainly – but its time is over,” says nearby resident Bev Tappan. “Why should an out-of-state company, purely for profit, seek to extend a license which poses such risk to all of us?”

Seabrook is owned by Florida-based energy conglomerate NextEra. The company bought the plant about 15 years ago from Eversource, known at the time as Public Service of New Hampshire.

NextEra’s current 20-year license for the plant is up in 2030. Seabrook will be one of two nuclear plants left in New England, along with Connecticut’s Millstone, after Massachusetts’ Pilgrim closes next year.

New England’s power grid currently runs mostly on nuclear power and natural gas.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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