NRC sets September hearing date for C-10 filing

Courtesy photo/C-10 Research and Education Foundation is scheduled to have a hearing Sept. 24-27 before the the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to address concrete degradation caused by alkali-silica reaction, a chemical process that causes small cracks in concrete, at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, pictured.

SEABROOK, N.H. — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission set a hearing date in September on C-10 Research and Education Foundation’s filing against the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, which was recently granted a license extension through 2050.

The 20-year license extension follows a decision made earlier this year by the NRC to approve an amendment to address concrete degradation caused by alkali-silica reaction, or ASR, a chemical process that causes small cracks in concrete.

In a separate matter in 2010, NextEra Energy submitted an application to renew the operating license for an additional 20 years. The plant went online in 1990.

Prior to granting the extension, C-10 Research and Education Foundation, a Newburyport group monitoring the plant’s safety, was scheduled to have a hearing on concrete degeneration at Seabrook Station with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. An official date of Sept. 24-27 has been confirmed, according to Neil Sheehan, a NRC public affairs officer.

In addition, there will be a limited appearance session Sept. 23 in which the public will be able to comment on the issue, Sheehan noted.

The contention the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will be considering is, “The large-scale test program, undertaken for NextEra (Energy) at the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory, has yielded data that are not representative of the progression of ASR at Seabrook. As a result, the proposed monitoring, acceptance criteria and inspection intervals are not adequate,” according to Sheehan.

Issuing the amendment and the renewed license would not prevent NRC officials from making any changes to Seabrook’s license that may be required as a result of the hearing process, Sheehan said.

“Nothing has changed with respect to our issuance of a renewed license for the Seabrook nuclear power plant or a license amendment related to concrete degradation at the facility,” he said. “Should the ASLB hearing result in any changes, the NRC could impose those on NextEra even though those licensing actions have been finalized.”

Natalie Hildt Treat, executive director of C-10, said C-10 is working with its expert, Victor Saouma, to prepare for the hearing the week of Sept. 23.

Saouma is a professor of structural engineering and structural mechanics at the University of Colorado Boulder as well as an expert in alkali-silica reaction, Treat noted.

The group is encouraging the NRC to hold the meeting in Newburyport and have a deadline of June 10 to file written testimony. Sheehan said although a venue hasn’t been confirmed, it’s safe to assume the meeting will be in the vicinity of the nuclear plant.

“As part of preparation for the hearing, there will be a tour of affected structures at Seabrook Station for key representatives from the parties — C-10, the NRC and NextEra — to see firsthand the degraded concrete at the plant,” Treat said.

“This would be my first time on the grounds of Seabrook Station and I look forward to the learning opportunity.”

The tour, Treat said, will hopefully be scheduled at the end of June. C-10 has a deadline of June 10 to file written testimony, she added.

C-10 monitors plant safety because six Massachusetts communities — Amesbury, Merrimac, Salisbury, Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury — are within a 10-mile radius of the plant and are considered part of the Seabrook Station emergency planning zone.

The sits about 17 miles northwest — as the seagull flies — from parts of Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts.

Amanda Getchell may be contacted at agetchell@gloucestertimes. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.