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Environmentalists contest Callaway nuclear renewal

Associated Press Modified: April 25, 2012 at 6:45 pm •  Published: April 25, 2012

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri environmental group is asking the federal government to more closely scrutinize Ameren Corp.'s request for a 20-year license renewal at the state's only nuclear power plant.

The Missouri Coalition for the Environment on Tuesday filed a legal objection to the utility's plan with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The coalition wants the federal agency to hold a formal public hearing on Ameren's license renewal application, a move that would likely delay consideration of the request. Ameren's current 40-year operating license for the Callaway County plant expires in 2024.

The application and protest are not related to Ameren's recently announced plans to team up with Westinghouse Electric build five smaller, "modular" nuclear reactors. The companies are seeking more than $450 million in federal support for that project.

"Our longstanding concern, in regards to the Callaway nuclear reactor, has been one of public safety and the protection of our environment," said Ed Smith, the environmental group's safe energy director. The group held a Wednesday press briefing on its NRC filing.

Diane Curran, a Washington, D.C. attorney for the coalition, said the license renewal requires further scrutiny after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The tsunami sent three of the plant's reactors into meltdown in the world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

The nuclear agency has given Ameren and other U.S. nuclear reactor operators a deadline of February 2013 to submit an updated seismic study and complete another safety plan sought in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese disaster, with a December 2016 deadline to put those improvements in place.

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