The Nuclear Regulatory Commission took a big step Friday toward licensing New York’s Shoreham nuclear power plant despite an agreement between the state and a utility earlier this week to close the embattled facility.
In a 4-0 vote, the commission upheld a decision by one of its licensing boards to dismiss state and local officials from NRC adjudicatory proceedings, effectively ending their effort to block an operating license for the Long Island plant.
The NRC also ordered its staff to review concerns raised by New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and local governments about Shoreham’s emergency evacuation plan.
Friday’s decision came only days after Cuomo and Shoreham’s operator, the Long Island Lighting Co., announced an agreement to permanently shutter the plant, which would make it the first completed nuclear plant in the nation to close without ever producing commercial power.
Earlier this week, LILCO reaffirmed its commitment to the plan to sell Shoreham to the state. The state, in turn, would construct other power plants on Long Island.
The NRC’s action Friday “opens up options in the public debate concerning the future of Shoreham and the resolution of Long Island’s electricity shortages,” LILCO spokesman Joseph McDonnell said.
Richard Kessel, executive director of the State Consumer Protection Board in New York, said: “It is apparent that the NRC made the decision today so that it can license Shoreham in the very near future. This makes it imperative that Gov. Cuomo’s settlement with LILCO be approved quickly, so that we can put Shoreham to rest forever.”
Jack Kulka, an executive board member of the Assn. for a Better Long Island, which favors opening Shoreham, said: “This decision means that the nails have just fallen out of the coffin.”
The state-utility agreement, which sells the $5.4-billion plant to the state for $1 and provides for its dismantlement, still must be approved by the state Public Service Commission, the New York Power Authority, the Long Island Power Authority and LILCO’s stockholders.