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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seabrook Station deserves to have its license renewed

A commentary headline in a recent edition of The Telegraph asked the question “Should Seabrook’s license be extended for 20 years?” Our answer to that question is a resounding “yes,” and we would like to explain why our track record supports license extension and respond to some of the writer’s inaccurate allegations.

First, NextEra Energy Seabrook Station is recognized as one of the best performing nuclear plants in the nation. For 20 years, the Seabrook team has been quietly and efficiently producing clean, emissions-free electricity for the benefit of 1.4 million families and businesses in our region.

The Seabrook team’s commitment to safety, security and environmental protection is absolute and unwavering, and our track record of fulfilling that commitment is well-established.

The writer of the commentary incorrectly states that “Reactors were granted 40-year licenses based on the expected life of their mechanical parts.” This is inaccurate and misleading. Plants were granted 40-year licenses because that was the approximate amount of time expected for a utility to recoup its original investment in a plant. It had nothing to do with life expectancy of equipment.

In fact, nuclear power plants are rigorously maintained with the highest of safety standards. Plants routinely undergo comprehensive equipment maintenance, and the whole purpose of the formal license renewal process is to ensure that a plant is fully prepared to operate safely for an additional 20 years.

The author further claimed that Seabrook Station has experienced several “near-miss” accidents.

There is absolutely no basis in fact for such a statement, and none of our regulators even use that terminology. More importantly, our track record proves that this is simply not the case.

While the author states that there are “clues” that radiation from our plant has harmed local residents, no credible study of the nuclear industry conducted by the government or independent scientific groups supports this assertion.

If there ever was a question about our plant’s radiation safety, the public can be certain that our own highly credible radiation safety professionals who live and work in this community, as well as the experts at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the New Hampshire Department of Public Health would not permit the plant to operate.

Finally, the commentary calls for a complete and rigorous license renewal process – and that is exactly how the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s process is designed.

NextEra Energy Seabrook’s recently submitted license renewal application is almost 2,000 pages long, comprehensively focusing on all the safety and environmental aspects of our operations. The formal process is extremely comprehensive, typically taking between 22 to 30 months to complete.

The process is based on scientific and technical evidence, and provides ample opportunity for public input so that all questions can be answered, and any concerns and issues can be fully vetted in an open and transparent way.

The Seabrook team is proud of our operational record, and our contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the environment. The author of the commentary is well-known across the industry as an avowed anti-nuclear activist whose work has been repeatedly discredited by the scientific community and various state regulators.

We look forward to the license renewal process, and to demonstrating that our plant is fully ready to operate for an additional 20 years.

And we will keep providing the public with the facts to counter any false claims about our operational record or commitment to continued safe operation.

Alan Griffith is the spokesman for NextEra Energy Seabrook Station, and can be reached at alan_griffith@nexteraenergy.com.