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January 9, 2013

Federal court rejects effort to block nuke plant renewal

Ruling brings back 'Siege of Seabrook' memories

SEABROOK, N.H. — The nuclear power plant that overcame the nation's longest protest to its construction has won a federal court victory enhancing the chances of uninterrupted operation for at least another 38 years.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston rebuffed a request by three groups opposed to the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant that they be allowed to intervene and object  to the plant's license renewal to 2050.

The decision upheld rulings of the federal district court and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission against the groups: Beyond Nuclear, New Hampshire Sierra Club and Seacoast Anti-Pollution League. They argued safety concerns and the prospect of wind power replacing atomic energy in the future.

Herb Moyer of Exeter, N.H., a spokesman for the opposition groups, criticized the decision as shortsighted and said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will be considered.

"We have to decide if we have enough resources to take this to the next level," he said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the proposed Seabrook plant became a lightning rod for anti-nuclear protestors, especially a group called the Clamshell Alliance. Thousands of anti-nuke activists from across the country attended a series of protest rallies, leading to what Time magazine called the "Siege of Seabrook."

Still, the $7 billion plant, located 40 miles north of Boston on the Atlantic Ocean, was completed in 1986, ten years later than expected, and began generating nuclear energy in 1990. Delays caused by the protests led to the bankruptcy of  the plant's owner, Public Service Company of New Hampshire.

Today, Seabrook is owned and operated by Florida-based NextEra Energy, a major generator and distributor of electrical power in North America. The company applied to the NRC two y ears ago for renewal of the Seabrook operating license to 2050 even though the current license does not expire for another 18 years.

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