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Nuclear regulators to reconsider environmental impact of Point Beach license extension | Science & Environment

Federal regulators are taking a fresh look at plans to keep Wisconsin’s only remaining nuclear power plant operating through mid-century.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended its review of NextEra Energy’s application to extend the operating licenses for its Point Beach Nuclear plant in Two Rivers while the agency completes a new review of the environmental impacts.

The original 40-year licenses for the two units were renewed in 2005 and are set to expire in 2030 and 2033. NextEra has applied for a 20-year extension, known as “subsequent license renewal.”

The NRC last month suspended all subsequent license renewals after concluding a generic environmental impact statement completed in 2013 did not meet requirements of federal law.

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Instead the agency will complete site-specific environmental impact reviews for Point Beach and half a dozen other plants seeking license extensions.

The largest tract — more than 1,900 acres — adjoins the Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area, a 6,600-acre preserve just east of Castle Rock Lake.

NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell said the public will have opportunities to comment on the scope of the new reviews as well as the contents once they are completed. Burnell said a timeline for the reviews has not been determined.

“It’s a little win in this long battle,” said Hannah Mortensen, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Wisconsin chapter.

The anti-nuclear group, which says the plant is unsafe, will again push the NRC to include fresh data on climate change and the benefits of renewable energy and conservation in its consideration of alternatives.

“The NRC has a ‘redo’ opportunity, and they should seize it,” said organization president Amy Schulz.

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NorthStar Group Services of New York says it could do the job for just $550 million, returning the rest of that money to ratepayers.

Situated on Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Green Bay, the 1,200-megawatt plant is Wisconsin’s single largest source of energy and a cornerstone of utility efforts to produce carbon-free electricity by 2050.

We Energies, the original owner, sold the plant in 2007 and agreed to purchase most of its output under a long-term contract that will nearly double the price of electricity over the next decade.

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