NEWBURYPORT — The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has announced that it will defer its decision on Seabrook Station owner NextEra Energy’s legal motion that attempts to restrict the C-10 Foundation’s argument at an upcoming hearing on the safety of the nuclear power plant’s degraded concrete.

Seabrook Station was recently granted a 20-year license extension through 2050 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Earlier this year, the NRC approved an amendment to address concrete degradation caused by alkali-silica reaction, or ASR, a chemical process that causes small cracks in concrete.

Prior to the NRC granting the extension, C-10, a Newburyport group monitoring the plant’s safety, was to have a hearing on concrete degradation at Seabrook Station with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The hearing was recently scheduled for September 24-27.

During the hearing, C-10 is expected to make its presentation based on a contention approved by the NRC. The contention the board will consider 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.” 

But in April, NextEra filed a legal motion with hopes to prevent C-10 from challenging the license amendment request’s structure deformation monitoring portion.

In the motion, NextEra argued that C-10 was originally permitted only to challenge the plant’s ASR expansion monitoring portion of the license amendment request, and that its petition to intervene in the hearing does not challenge the structure deformation portion of the request. NextEra noted that C-10 recently filed an “emergency petition” with the NRC containing “various requests and demands” relating to the license amendment request proceeding, the recent license renewal and other issues.

NextEra requested from the NRC an order requesting C-10 be prevented from giving testimony on the plant’s structure deformation monitoring, which it called “irrelevant” and said would “introduce unnecessary prejudice and inefficiency into the hearing process.”

NextEra’s motion was met with a response last month from C-10, which said NextEra has “failed to show a ‘compelling need’ to pre-emptively exclude any testimony” relating to the Seabrook’s structural monitoring program.

On Friday, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board issued a notice saying it requires more information on the debate, and will wait before making a decision on NextEra’s legal motion until it has “an adequate evidentiary record to review.”

The order states that in order for the board to grant NextEra’s motion, it would have to make a conclusion with limited information on whether the challenged information falls outside “reasonably inferred bounds” of C-10’s admitted contention. 

Natalie Hildt Treat, executive director for C-10, said on Monday she was pleased with the board’s decision, and that she hopes the foundation will be allowed to present its full argument during the September hearing.

“This was definitely a shot in the arm for our case and it’s good for the public,” said Treat. “This keeps the door open for us.” 

When contacted for comment, NextEra Energy spokesperson Peter Robbins said, “As this is an ongoing proceeding, we have nothing to add at this time.”

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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