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I-Team: Senators Demand Independent Review Of Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant

SEABROOK, NH (CBS) - Both Massachusetts senators are demanding an independent review of the Seabrook Nuclear Power plant months after the I-Team reported on cracking concrete at the facility. The plant and the federal oversight agency insist there is a robust monitoring program already in place and the buildings are safe.

"The concrete degradation is happening faster than expected and it is absolutely imperative that as a result, we have a review," Senator Ed Markey said. "We have to make sure it's safe, we have to make sure that concrete is going to hold... that requires critical questions to be asked and answered."

The owner of the plant, NextEra Energy Resources, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that oversees the plant, have been monitoring the degrading concrete for more than a decade and both say the plant is safe.

Natalie Hildt Treat is with C-10, a nuclear watchdog group that has been monitoring and has sometimes been at odds with Seabrook for decades. She says Seabrook is the first and only nuclear power plant in the U.S. reporting this type of cracking concrete, which is sometimes called concrete cancer. She tells the I-Team, "Seabrook is the first U.S. reactor known to have the problem."

She visited the site a year ago and says she saw it first hand. "I could see the moisture made it in stark relief, this spider pattern cracking," Hildt Treat said. "It's a slow-moving problem but it's definitely progressing."

NextEra, the owner of Seabrook again declined the I-Team's request for an interview and a plant visit. In a statement, NextEra said, "We have demonstrated, and the NRC has confirmed repeatedly, that Seabrook's structures are robust, safe and fully capable of performing their design functions."

Senator Markey says that's not enough and wants a thorough review to ensure residents are safe. "They have a right to answers, they have a right to know that in fact the concrete is going to hold and that there is no danger to them or to their families," Markey said.

Hildt Treat is one of those residents. "For those of us who live here we have to think about it. We have to think about how would we evacuate. Where we would get our kids," Hildt Treat said. "Parents of children who live in a 10-mile radius we have to sign permission slips to let the school give them potassium iodide to protect their thyroid if there were an accident. These are the kind of silent burdens that we live with living near a nuclear plant. So that's why we need to make sure it's safe."

The NRC said it plans to respond to the senators in writing, but it did not provide a statement for this report. Seabrook was recently relicensed by the NRC for an additional 30 years. NextEra said the plant is safe.

Full statement from NextEra:

"Seabrook Station is the largest provider of clean energy in New England, supplying clean, reliable and low-cost energy around the clock. Alkali-silica reaction is a well understood condition, and our monitoring and testing program was developed by qualified, credentialed structural engineering experts. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has performed a highly detailed, multi-year evaluation of our infrastructure and systems, which included years of scrutiny by independent technical experts and more than a dozen public meetings with opportunities for the public to comment. We have demonstrated, and the NRC has confirmed repeatedly, that Seabrook's structures are robust, safe and fully capable of performing their design functions.

"As part of normal processes, NRC inspectors recently conducted a comprehensive review of our concrete monitoring program. While they noticed that an evaluation report didn't provide sufficient detail to the next inspection period, which was considered a finding of very low safety significance, the inspectors found our program to be robust and comprehensive. In other words, the NRC had a concern about the level of information contained in a report, and had no concerns about our program itself."

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