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Fermi 2 plant renewed for 20 more years

Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station
Nuclear Regulatory Agency
Fermi II is one of three nuclear power plants in Michigan

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant's operating license for another 20 years. That will extend the plant's operating license through March 20, 2045.

The approval follows safety and environmental impact studies showing that the plant met standards for its license to be renewed.

"The NRC found that there's reasonable assurance that the plant's systems and functions can still operate safely and be conducted in a safe manner to go ahead and grant the license renewal," says Prema Chandrathil, a spokesperson for the NRC.

The NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has a pending motion to reopen a hearing on the plant's renewal, and that's still on track.

Groups concerned about the safety of the aging  power plant – including Citizens Resistance at Fermi 2 (CRAFT), Don’t Waste Michigan, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, and Beyond Nuclear – have challenged the renewal of the plant's license.

In its filing with the ASLB, CRAFT alleges that Fermi 2 has not adequately prepared people living within 10 miles of the plant by distributing potassium iodide to households potentially affected by a nuclear accident. Potassium iodide supplements protect the thyroid gland in case of radiation exposure.

"The NRC's renewal of Fermi 2's license does not reflect any judgment on that new challenge," says Chandrathil.

Fermi 2 opened in 1988. It is a General Electric Type 4 boiling water reactor. It employs about 800 workers and supplies 20% of the power generated by DTE. DTE representative Guy Cerullo says the license renewal includes extensive upgrades and improvements that will be made to the plant.

"There are improvements included in the plans we submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," says Cerullo. "The initial application for the license renewal was well over 2,200 pages and the NRC had hundreds of questions that they asked us from a technical standpoint of how are we going to deal with aging equipment in the plant and how we'll replace or repair certain equipment so it's maintained in the safest most efficient way possible."