Federal Ruling Due In January On Management Of Seabrook Nuclear Plant’s Concrete

Sep 30, 2019

Watchdog groups and neighbors of the Seabrook nuclear power plant had what they called their day in court last week.

A federal administrative hearing with a panel of judges wrapped up Friday. It focused on whether Seabrook owner NextEra has adequately studied the degrading concrete at the plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved NextEra's concrete monitoring plan based on that study and relicensed the plant earlier this year.

Seabrook is the only nuclear plant in the country known to be experiencing the chemical reaction that causes concrete to develop hairline cracks.

"There aren't really the right protocols to figure out, for the NRC, guiding them to how to deal with this,” says Natalie Treat, executive director of the nonprofit, C-10. She spoke on NHPR’s The Exchange Monday.

Treat’s group brought the complaint that resulted in last week's hearing. Their star witness was a national third-party expert on the type of concrete degradation Seabrook is experiencing.

During the hearing, the judges of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board’s law panel questioned C-10, NextEra and the NRC on their views of the concrete issue and how it has been studied and is being overseen.

The panel also took public comment at the start of the proceeding, which took place in Newburyport, Mass.

In a statement as the hearing wrapped up, Seabrook spokeswoman Lindsay Robertson said NextEra welcomed this latest chance for “public dialogue.” She says their concrete monitoring program is effective and approved by regulators.

“Seabrook Station is an important regional asset that continues to play a vital role in our energy infrastructure by supplying clean, reliable and low-cost electricity to New England,” Robertson said in her statement.  

A ruling that has the potential to reshape the plant's operations is due out by January.

Seabrook is one of two nuclear plants and three reactors still operating in New England. The region’s other nuclear facility is Millstone in Connecticut. Together, they supply about a third of the region’s electricity.