Six years after it received Entergy’s application to renew the operating license of the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts, the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has recommended that the reactor be allowed to operate for an additional two decades.

“The staff determined that Entergy Nuclear and [Entergy Nuclear Operations] have taken, or will take, appropriate actions to manage the effects of aging during the period of extended operation as reflected in modifications to the licensing basis. Therefore, the staff found that there is reasonable assurance that the activities authorized by the renewed license will continue to be conducted in accordance with the current licensing basis,” NRC Executive Director for Operations R. W. Borchardt wrote in a document dated April 20. (It is available in the NRC’s ADAMS system under accession number ML083030030.)

Pilgrim holds the agency’s longest outstanding relicensing application. Its original license expires in June, although NRC rules allow plants to continue to operate if an agency decision on their relicensing has not yet been made.

The staff recommendation leaves unresolved multiple challenges to the relicensing application by groups opposed to the plant. Nonetheless, the NRC staff asked commissioners to approve the application while those actions are pending, arguing they had the authority to do so.

“Although a new late-filed contention has been referred to the board and an appeal of an [Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel] decision is pending before the commission, the NRC is not compelled to await exhaustion of administrative or judicial appeals before renewing the operating license,” the document read.