The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to hold a meeting in Maryland next week to discuss concrete deterioration problems at the Seabrook, N.N., nuclear plant, but two Massachusetts congressmen based north of Boston say they want a meeting to be held much closer to the plant.
Congressmen John Tierney, whose district includes all of Cape Ann and extends to Salisbury and the state line, and Ed Markey, the Democrat from Malden, sent a letter to the NRC Friday imploring the agency to hold at least one public meeting at a venue close to Seabrook — preferably, a meeting in Massachusetts and another in New Hampshire.
A spokesman for the NRC told The Daily News of Newburyport Friday that the agency's plans at this point call for a single meeting at its Maryland headquarters. The NRC has set up technical links that will allow local people to listen to and watch the six-hour meeting remotely.
The NRC plans to be in New Hampshire April 26 to hold its annual public meeting on the Seabrook plant. At that meeting, discussion of the concrete problem is expected to take place, said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.
Tierney said that he hadn't heard directly from the NRC, and he continued to hold out hope that a more local North Shore meeting would transpire.
Cape Ann does not fall within the 10-mile "evacuation zone" from the Seabrook nuclear facility, but the plant looms just 17 miles across the water from parts of Rockport, and the Lanesville and Folly Cove areas of Gloucester.
"I continue to believe local residents deserve the opportunity to hear from those knowledgeable on concrete degradation and possible safety risks to voice their concerns and to have their questions answered," Tierney said in a prepared statement. "I trust the NRC will take the time to thoroughly consider Congressman Markey's and my request, and I will keep pressing the NRC to host a meeting on this particular issue in our area."
The NRC's Maryland meeting on April 23 will focus entirely on concrete degradation at the plant.
Concrete walls 40 feet underground in a section of an electrical tunnel have been infiltrated by water. The degradation is caused by a chemical reaction that has reduced the concrete's strength by 22 percent. The tunnel is one of two identical electrical conduits that contain wiring connecting the plant's controls to machinery.
The NRC has deemed the plant to be safe, noting that the 2-foot-thick walls are heavily reinforced with steel rebar. But the NRC also acknowledges that the water seepage problem remains unsolved, and the long-term effects on the plant are not known. The NRC meeting is meant to present some of the NRC's conclusions and data.
Tierney and Markey argued that the meeting place — more than 400 miles from Seabrook — "severely limits the ability of those who live and work near the facility to fully understand the nature of this safety- and aging-related problem."
They want to have a traditional public-hearing-style meeting held, "as opposed to the open-house-style meeting that the NRC recently has started to utilize that seems to enable only small group or one-on-one question-and-answer sessions."
Both Tierney and Markey oppose a request by Seabrook to get a 20-year extension on its current license, which expires in 2030. One of their main points of contention is the concrete problem.
"If safety structures that are expected to help cool the Seabrook nuclear power plant are experiencing such alarming degradation during the plant's 'adolescence, there is simply no way that the NRC can guarantee that it will remain safe when it enters its 'golden years' some 40 years from now," the congressmen wrote.