SEABROOK — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has issued a draft safety evaluation for a license amendment request from the Seabrook nuclear power plant’s owner, NextEra Energy, that seeks to address concrete degradation caused by alkali silica reaction.

ASR is a chemical reaction that causes concrete to expand and potentially reduces structural integrity over time. After it was first detected at the plant in 2009, the commission determined the affected structures could continue operating safely.

NextEra Energy, the Seabrook plant’s owner, has been seeking a 20-year extension of its current license, which expires in 2030. In 2017, NextEra filed a 400-page license amendment with the commission, detailing how it plans on managing ASR in the long-term future.

Now, the draft safety evaluation is being issued in preparation for a meeting Oct. 31 of the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent body of experts that advises the commission on nuclear safety matters. Commission staff and NextEra representatives will speak at the special technical session, which is part of the advisory committee’s review of the Seabrook license renewal application.

During the meeting, the commission will also provide the advisory group with a safety evaluation report.

In an email to The Daily News, Neil Sheehan, public affairs officer for the commission, said the commission continues to conclude there are no immediate safety concerns regarding ASR or concrete degradation at the plant.

“This is due, among other things, to existing safety margins, the slow progression of ASR and ongoing monitoring,” Sheehan said in the email.

“NRC inspection results to date on NextEra’s prompt operability determinations support conclusions that ASR-affected structures at Seabrook remain capable of performing their intended safety functions,” Sheehan wrote, adding that inspection results are documented in publicly available Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection reports that are issued roughly every six months.

The final decision on the Seabrook license renewal application will come after the completion of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board hearing on the license amendment request, which is now expected to take place in summer 2019.

To view the NRC’s draft safety evaluation, visit https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1822/ML18226A205.pdf

To view the NRC’s safety evaluation report, visit https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1825/ML18254A294.pdf

Staff writer Jack Shea 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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