(Mary Lampert, director of Duxbury’s Pilgrim Watch, has found powerful support in her fight against Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant’s relicensure.)

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Gregory Jaczko cast the dissenting vote last week in a losing appeal made by Duxbury’s Pilgrim Watch that would have reopened the relicensing of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. Pilgrim Watch, headed by local nuclear safety activist Mary Lampert, appealed on the basis that the NRC has not considered the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and applied them to Pilgrim Station though they are the same design.

In his dissenting opinion, Jaczko, a longtime proponent of transparency in government and often a lone voice on the commission advocating for tighter security regulations for nuclear power plants, sided with Pilgrim Watch. In his statement, he wrote, “Given the significance of [the Fukushima] accident and the potential implications for the safety of our nuclear reactors, we should allow members of the public to obtain hearings on new contentions on emerging information if they satisfy our ordinary contention standards. Applying more stringent admissibility standards to Fukushima contentions because a Board has taken the administrative action of closing the record on an unrelated hearing will lead to inconsistent outcomes and, more importantly, unfairly limit public participation in these important safety matters.” Lampert said she was encouraged by Chairman Jaczko’s support and hopeful about two other appeals her group has before with the NRC.

“I was happy with Jaczko’s dissent and I’ll be interested to see how the next three petitions for review go,” said Lampert, referring to two filed by Pilgrim watch and a third by District Attorney Martha Coakley, who is also seeking to delay the re-licensing of Pilgrim in light of Fukushima. “Does this mean the license will be issued? No, because they have yet to review the Attorney General’s appeal and our two other appeals.”

Though Pilgrim has endured a record-long six-year technical review for its license renewal, there’s little reason to believe Pilgrim won’t receive it. According to NRC spokesman Scott Burnell, every nuclear plant that’s applied for relicensure has met the NRC’s standards.

“To this point, all of the applicants have met those requirements,” said Burnell.

Carol Wightman, spokeswoman for Pilgrim Station, said the parent company, Entergy, is pleased with the NRC’s ruling denying Pilgrim Watch’s appeal.

“Pilgrim Station has gone through an exhaustive, going on seven year safety and technical review as part of the NRC license renewal process, and we look forward to the commission’s decision regarding the license renewal of Pilgrim Station,” said Wightman.

But there is still hope for opponents of Pilgrim. Last week, officials with the New England Aquarium confirmed a sighting of the rare Atlantic sturgeon swimming in local waters. One hasn’t been spotted in Massachusetts in nearly a century, according to Aquarium officials. As a result, Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey, ranking Democrat on the powerful Natural Resources Committee and outspoken opponent of Pilgrim, wrote to the NRC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) claiming the NRC is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) if it proceeds with relicensure of Pilgrim in the wake of this discovery. In his letter, Markey stated that re-licensing Pilgrim must wait until potential harm to both the threatened Atlantic sturgeon and two species of river herring is mitigated because neither was “included in the NRC’s 2007 biological assessment of species that could be impacted by the facility’s operations…”

“Congressman Markey underscores the importance of this issue and a new request for a hearing will be filed with the NRC in Pilgrim’s adjudication relicensing proceedings,” said Lampert.

According to Wightman, Pilgrim Station is in full compliance with all federal and state environmental regulations.