POWER STRUGGLE

At Heated Public Meeting, Nuclear Regulators Infuriate Massachusetts Activists With Announcement That Pilgrim Power Plant Will Stay Open

Photo by Miriam Wasser

Photo by Miriam Wasser

About 300 residents of Cape Cod and the South Shore packed into the ballroom of Hotel 1620 in Plymouth last Tuesday, hoping to finally get some answers from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about the future of the beleaguered operation in their backyard, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

Though a few dozen people wearing green “I support Pilgrim” pins sat quietly in the back of the room, most in attendance were

longtime anti-nuclear activists and fierce critics of the plant, who at times broke out into chants of “Shut it down! Shut it down!”

“It is critical that the NRC stop pussy-footing around,” Pine DuBois, an organizer with the nonprofit Jones River Watershed Association, told the four-person NRC panel. “You are putting our lives and our environment at risk. We know we’re not safe … and we insist you close this down.”

DuBois’ fear is understandable, given that a serious accident at the plant could threaten the health and safety of an estimated five million people living in the 50-mile “emergency planning zone” around Plymouth—an area that includes Boston and much of Rhode Island.

The meeting lasted about three hours, during which time NRC officials made speeches, answered questions about safety, and listened to a lot of public testimony about the state and status of the plant.

Though many speeches were fiery and riled up the crowd, the night ended on a disappointing note for most in attendance, as the NRC gave no indication that it plans to close Pilgrim for safety violations.

“Allowing Pilgrim to limp along doesn’t demonstrate that the NRC is acting in the public’s best interest,” one speaker said, spurring major applause.

The situation at Pilgrim is, to say the least, complex. The 44-year old plant is technically licensed to operate until 2032 but is expected to close in 2019 because its owner, the Louisiana-based utility company Entergy, isn’t making a profit. (All around the country, cheap natural gas prices have caused a handful of nuclear power plants to shutter in the last few years.)

While 2019 is only a few years away, many of those living in the shadow of the plant believe it isn’t worth the risk to keep it open for that long. In many ways, their concerns stem from the fact that the plant has had multiple safety issues in the last four years and is officially classified as one of the three worst plants in the country by the NRC. …Continue Reading in DigBoston

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