M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Reporting: Safety debate delays new license for Japan-type reactor

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A new license for one of the U.S. nuclear plants most similar to Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi facility has been on hold for more than five years, offering a uniquely extensive record of safety and security concerns with its reactor and others like it.

Of the 104 active nuclear reactors in the United States, 23 use GE or GE Hitachi boiling water systems featuring the same Mark I containment system as the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station.

Only six of those, however, are Mark I systems paired with General Electric Model 3 reactors, closely resembling the configuration of the first reactor to fail at the Fukushima plant, according to records of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

And just one of those six — the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., about 40 miles south of Boston — has a new license application currently before the NRC.

As it happens, Pilgrim and its parent company, Entergy Corp. of New Orleans, have been tied up in court and legislative hearings on the license since January 2006 — the longest such delay on record. That has generated a years-long docket of regulatory filings, responses, claims and counterclaims.

The records show that Pilgrim is still vexed by leaks of radioactive tritium into the groundwater and unexplained cracking in control rod blades that help regulate its nuclear reactions, as well as unspecified security violations.

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

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