Posted on    April 1, 2015  

How to lobby in person or from the comfort of your home…

Here are three ways you can support the nuclear bills pending in the state house:

  1. Attend hearings and provide testimony in person. To learn the time and location of hearings, go to the state’s bill search page HERE. In the search box enter either the bill number or keyword, “nuclear.” You can also use the links provided below.
  2. Email the Joint Committees that are hearing the bills and ask for their support. You can contact the Committee Chairs or some or all members. See below for contact details.
  3. Email your State Representatives and Senator and ask them to get on board. Request a copy of their testimony. Find your legislators HERE.

Here are more details about the pending nuclear bills:

Emergency Planning:

Bill H.1898: An Act increasing nuclear power plant protections to a twenty mile radius. By Rep. Cantwell of Marshfield and others, a petition for legislation to increase power plant safety preparedness by the Department of Public Health to twenty miles. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Bill H.2031: An Act increasing nuclear power plant protections to a fifty mile radius. By Rep. Peake of Provincetown, Rep. Ferrante of Gloucester, and others for legislation to increase power plant safety preparedness by the Department of Public Health to twenty miles. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Bill H.2167: An Act relative to emergency planning. By Rep. Peake of Provincetown, Rep. Ferrante of Gloucester, and others, a petition for legislation to direct the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to assess and report on the preparedness plans for a radiological accident at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Bill H.2020: An Act creating public education zones near nuclear facilities. By Rep. Mark of Peru, a petition for legislation to create public education zones near nuclear facilities. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Environmental Monitoring:

Bill H.1899: An Act to amend Section 5K(E) of Chapter 111. By Rep. Cantwell of Marshfield and others, a petition for legislation to authorize the Department of Public Health to make assessments against power plants. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Bill H.2030: An Act relative to radiological air monitoring. By Rep. Peake of Provincetown, Rep. Ferrante of Gloucester, and others, a petition for legislation to authorize the Dept. of Public Health to enhance radiological air monitoring through an additional assessment to certain power plants. Email members of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Bills Not Yet Assigned to Committees:

Senate Docket (SD) 50 (By Sen. Dan Wolf) requires any Massachusetts commercial nuclear reactor to pay an annual $25,000,000 post-closure funding fee into a trust fund at the State Treasurer to assure sufficient money for cleanup.

Senate Docket (SD) 46 (By Sen. Dan Wolf) establishes a fee on spent nuclear fuel stored in pools.

You can call Senator Wolf’s office at 617-722-1570 or 508-775-0162, or email to check on the status of these docket numbers (these will eventually change to bill numbers). Or you can check back – we will add more information to this page once these bills are assigned to committee.

Posted on    March 18, 2015  

“Don’t think of it in terms of energy, think of it in terms of public safety. And don’t think of it as an electrical producing facility, think of it as a nuclear waste dump. Because that’s what it is.” – Dan Wolf

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from Martha's Vineyard Productions on Vimeo.

Watch this video from the Martha’s Vineyard forum in June 2014, featuring Senator Dan Wolf, Mary Lampert (Pilgrim Watch), Karen Vale (Cape Cod Bay Watch), and Diane Turco (Cape Downwinders).

Posted on    March 5, 2015      Bill Maurer and Meg Sheehan    Wicked Local

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, when winter storm Juno hit Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS) in Plymouth, it caused an emergency “scram,” also called a “reactor trip” and more simply known as an unplanned shutdown. Unplanned shutdowns present a risk to public safety, especially when efforts to control reactor temperature and pressure during an unplanned shutdown are complicated by multiple critical equipment failures, as was the case at PNPS during Juno. Juno knocked out Pilgrim for 11 days while Entergy was making repairs to failed equipment.

Pilgrim was no sooner coming back online when winter storm Neptune hit on Valentine’s Day. This time, Entergy shut down Pilgrim as a “precautionary” measure – an explicit acknowledgement that public safety would be at risk if there was another emergency at Pilgrim. Pilgrim was offline for three days, taking an additional five days during restart to reach full power. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman Neil Sheehan reported that during the restart Entergy was “working through some non-safety related, balance-of-plant equipment problems. These are new issues and not problems from the 1/27 storm. Such issues are not unusual following two shutdowns and start-ups in a short period of time.”

Entergy’s Jan. 27 Pilgrim scram raised alarms not only with the public, but at the NRC too. The agency sent a six-member special inspection team to PNPS for a week to figure out what went wrong this time. Their report is due by the end of March.

It’s no surprise that Pilgrim’s aging facilities could not handle Juno and were forced into shut down. In 2013, Pilgrim had four emergency scrams, which put it in the “degraded category” under NRC rules. In the fall of 2014, the NRC investigated the degraded conditions at Pilgrim, and one day before Juno, on Jan. 26, issued a report. The NRC found that Pilgrim failed its inspection because Entergy had not fixed all the problems that caused the four scrams in 2013. One thing the NRC found that Entergy had not addressed was how to handle severe weather events like Juno. Juno proved the NRC right – PNPS was forced to shut down.

The NRC’s Jan. 26 report also found that in 2013 Entergy had failed to deal with a recurrent switchyard performance failure called a “flashover,” which is electricity arcing between two points causing a fault. A failed insulator in the Pilgrim switchyard was identified as a contributing cause of the flashover during a storm in 2013. Five years earlier, a nor’easter in December 2008 caused a loss of offsite power at Pilgrim, which was accompanied by switchyard flashovers and then an unplanned scram. Entergy was supposed to have determined the root cause and corrected the switchyard flashover problem back in 2008 and again in 2013. Obviously they hadn’t. Instead, in 2013 Entergy had just stored the failed insulator in a warehouse, where the NRC inspectors found it 21 months later. Entergy had deferred the funding for the investigation of the failed insulator 11 times, causing the NRC to determine that Entergy “failed to investigate a deficient condition.”

Since the Blizzard of 1978, switchyard flashovers at Pilgrim have been a recurrent equipment performance failure. Now, Pilgrim has had at least eight unplanned scrams all provoked by Nor’easters delivering blizzard conditions. Pilgrim’s switchyard equipment is located outside, totally exposed to wind-driven salt air, spray, rain, ice and snow. The Juno 2015 loss of offsite power, flashovers and unplanned scram was predictably just one more time.

The NRC’s Jan. 26 report speaks directly to the predictability of recurrent failures during nor’easters: “Inspectors determined that the inadequate guidance for pre-storm actions represented a condition adverse to quality that was reasonably within Entergy’s ability to identify and correct by execution of corrective actions identified in the RCE” (Root Cause Evaluation). Additionally the NRC said Pilgrim has “safety culture” issues and faulted Entergy for “overconfidence and complacency” in the face of safety operations. The NRC says that Entergy’s failure to correct problems is a “significant programmatic deficiency that could lead to worse errors if uncorrected.”

Entergy has had enough chances to fix the many problems that plague Pilgrim. It is time to put public safety first and stop playing Russian roulette with a nuclear reactor having a troubled history of recurrent performance failures.

Meg Sheehan is a public interest attorney and native of Plymouth. Bill Maurer is a retired construction project manager.

Posted on    February 6, 2015      Bruce Gellerman (WBUR)   

A special team of six federal inspectors is investigating the unplanned shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth. The reactor, which produces about 10 percent of the state’s electricity, lost power during last week’s blizzard and had to rely on generators to run the nuclear plant’s critical safety systems. WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman reports on the shutdown and investigation.

Posted on    February 5, 2015      Heather Lightner    Manomet Current

Last month, Entergy began transferring spent fuel from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s overcrowded wet pool to dry cask storage.

Entergy needs to create space in its spent fuel pool so that spent fuel that is removed from the reactor in the future has a place to cool. Two of the three storage casks wereloaded in January, with each cask containing 68 assemblies; the third cask was loaded the first week of February. The casks will be stored onsite at Pilgrim and are likely to remain in Plymouth for an indefinite period of time, as there is no Federal repository for storage of spent nuclear fuel.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Massachusetts and New York Attorneys General offices, believe dry cask storage of spent fuel to be safer than wet pool storage because it is passive and does not require human action to cool the fuel. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and numerous government and scientific sources, have reported problems with the steel and concrete dry casks Entergy has ordered for spent fuel storage at Pilgrim. Concerns regarding the long-term viability and safety of dry casks have been raised, as well as the potential for stress corrosion cracking due to salt water exposure (with subsequent radioactive release) and vulnerability to terrorist attack.

Dry casks have three components: 1. a metal transfer cask to lift and handle the canister and prevent radioactive shieling of the spent fuel assemblies, 2. a leak-proof metal canister capable of holding 68 boiling water reactor assemblies, and 3. a storage overpack made of steel-encased concrete which provides physical and radiological protection of the metal canister when stored on the dry cask pad. This canister is vented for natural convection to dissipate spent fuel decay heat.

Pilgrim’s dry cask storage facility is located only about 175 feet away from the shoreline of Cape Cod Bay and about 6 feet above FEMA’s flood level. The proximity of the dry casks to the water and the effect of storm surge and sea level rise are worrisome. Pilgrim’s salt water environment may lead to premature stress corrosion cracking of the stainless steel canisters within 30 years – or perhaps sooner – resulting in major radiation releases. The concrete overpacks can also suffer from accelerated aging issues as the result of the coastal factors. Other nuclear power plants, such as San Onofre in Pendleton, California – also located on the water – have documented component failures in similar materials that have occurred in less than 30 years.

Unfortunately, the technology does not exist to inspect even the outside of the stainless steel canisters for cracks once loaded with spent fuel meaning there is no way to know that a stress corrosion crack has occurred. The NRC has given the nuclear industry five years to develop a method for inspecting the outside of the canisters; however, the NRC only plans on requiring inspection of one canister at each nuclear power plant. Even if a method did exist to detect a canister crack, there is no remediation plan if a canister does fail. The technology that is used to repair other stainless steel components cannot be used to repair canisters containing spent nuclear fuel. Per the NRC, if a canister becomes damaged due to a stress corrosion crack, there is no way to repair or replace the canister. Additionally, a canister cannot be transported in a transfer cask if there is a crack.

One potential fuel-handling solution that is currently being considered is the possibility of bringing a cask, or canister, back into the spent fuel pool, where it could be opened and possibly repaired or replaced. However, there is no publicly published documentation that a boiling water reactor dry cask has ever been loaded back into a spent fuel pool containing other assemblies. Temperature differences between the fuel in the dry cask and the spent fuel pool could disturb the properties of the cask, cladding, fuel, and related hardware if the materials were rewetted and rapidly cooled. Reinsertion of dry casks in the wet pool would thermally shock the irradiated fuel rods and cause a steam flash which would harm workers in the facility. Hence, an empty wet pool specifically designated for the reopening of damaged casks would be needed and is currently not available at any nuclear power plant in the country. Technology known as dry (hot cell) transfer has been discussed as an option for handling damaged casks; however, there is no dry handling facility available that is large enough to handle these canisters. Additionally, there is no mobile facility designed for this purpose and designing one may not be feasible.

There are no monitors installed on each cask to measure heat, helium (detection of helium can provide early warning of a problem) and radiation. A daily surveillance of the dry cask passive heat removal system is required to ensure system operability. This can be achieved by either monitoring the casks’ inlet and outlet vent temperatures or performing a visual inspection daily to ensure that the casks’ vents are not blocked. Pilgrim has chosen to perform daily visual inspections to ensure the air inlet and outlet vents do not become blocked and the passive heat removal system remains operable. The NRC expects that thermoluminscent dosimeters will be placed around the storage pad and will be used to monitor radiation on a quarterly to yearly basis. Unfortunately, the dosimeters can only read to a maximum threshold. They cannot provide an immediate reading of radiation.

Though the prospect of storing high-level nuclear waste in Plymouth indefinitely is not a pleasant thought and will never be the right or perfect solution for our town, there are steps that can be taken to do the job right and make dry cask storage as safe as it can be. Moving the dry casks to higher ground and enclosing them within a building offers multiple benefits: 1. increased protection against a salt water environment, storm surge, and sea level rise, 2. prevention of blockage of dry cask ventilation due to ice, snow, mud, and birds’ nests, thereby lowering the chance of a canister overheating, and 3. decreased visibility to potential terrorists, hence decreasing the site’s vulnerability to an attack.

While there is no current method to repair damaged canisters or casks, the addition of heat, helium, and radiation monitors for each cask would provide real-time information which would be invaluable in terms of identifying and responding to a problem with a dry cask. On-site storage of additional overpacks may offer temporary protection should a canister or cask corrosion crack occur.

Ultimately the best solution is to use casks that are not susceptible to cracks, that can be inspected and repaired, and that have early warning monitoring systems that alert us before radiation leaks into the environment.

Despite the concerns related to dry casks, dry cask storage has many advantages over wet pool storage: it does not require mechanical parts or offsite electrical power; does not need human intervention to function properly; and, is not as vulnerable to acts of terrorism. Dry cask storage also reduces the amount of spent fuel in the SFP, meaning there will be fewer releases of radioactivity in the event of an accident. Sadly, significant gains in safety can only be realized through expedited transfer dry cask transfer and resultant thinning of the spent fuel pool, which currently Pilgrim does not plan to do.

Heather Lightner is a registered nurse in Plymouth and president of Concerned Neighbors of Pilgrim, a local, grassroots group focused on safer storage of spent nuclear fuel at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. She serves on the Plymouth Nuclear Matters Committee. The opinions expressed here are hers and do not reflect the official position of the NMC.

Posted on    February 4, 2015  

Pilgrim shut down automatically at 4:05am Tuesday, January 27, 2015 after two transmission lines failed during Blizzard Juno around high tide – furthering concerns that the nuclear plant is seriously unprepared to weather the storm.

Posted on    March 21, 2014      Bruce Gellerman    Source (WBUR)

PLYMOUTH, Mass. — Twelve Cape Cod residents were found guilty Friday in Plymouth District Court for illegally entering the grounds of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.

The defendants admitted to trespassing at the Plymouth facility, but used the seldom argued necessity defense, declaring they were innocent because they were trying to prevent an imminent public danger.

Diana Turco, co-founder of Cape Downwinders, a group of Cape Cod residents who want the plant shut down, was one of 12 defendants.

“There are cancers caused by the nuclear power plant. There is no assurance of public safety in the evacuation plans. Those are huge issues,” Turco said.

The judge ruled the standards for the necessity defense were not met.

The 12 defendants were found guilty and each was sentenced to a day in jail, or time served.

Posted on    October 16, 2013      Frank Mand    Source

PLYMOUTH — Depending on your perspective, Monday’s shut down of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was either another example of the plant’s “defense in depth” safety or additional evidence of its vulnerability.

The press release from Pilgrim arrived just after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, Oct. 15, and referenced a successful scram (sudden shutdown) of the reactor at 9:21 p.m. the previous evening. According to Pilgrim spokesman Carol Wightman, “Pilgrim Station automatically shut down due to the loss of one of the two 345-kV lines that provides offsite power to the plant.” Keep reading…

Posted on    October 15, 2013      Lane Lambert    Source

PLYMOUTH — A Monday night loss of outside power has forced the Pilgrim nuclear plant offline for the fourth time this year.

Carol Wightman, a spokeswoman for Pilgrim’s owner Entergy, said Tuesday morning that the plan automatically shut down at 9:21 p.m. Monday, when an NStar power line into the plant went out of service.

Wightman said Pilgrim gets its outside power from two 345-kilovolt lines. NStar had already taken one of the lines out of service for maintenance when the second line failed.

Wightman said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission was informed as soon as the shutdown occurred.

She said the shutdown had no effect on the health or safety to the public or Pilgrim workers. She said the 685-megawatt plant will return to production when NStar completes repair and restoration of the two power lines.

Wightman said emergency generators began operating as soon as the NStar line went out of service, and that the generators are safely powering the plant.

Meanwhile, she said Pilgrim crews are doing maintenance that can’t be performed while the plant is in production.

Pilgrim has now been offline for 73 of 288 days thus far this year, though 46 of those days were for planned maintenance and refueling.

The plant was offline three times earlier this year from pump-related problems. The plant was down for a week in January, and again in late August and early September.

110 Pilgrim violations, 2000-2012

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth experienced 108 lower-level and two higher-level safety violations from 2000 through 2012. The violations were included in a congressional study expected to be released this month showing that safety violations at nuclear plants across the country varies dramatically from region to region. The Government Accountability Office report obtained by The Associated Press suggests inconsistent enforcement of regulations could be responsible.

A Pilgrim spokeswoman said they’re committed to addressing even minor issues and that enhancing safety is their top concern.

Twenty-six Northeast reactors reported more than 2,500 violations, about 97 per reactor, during the 13-year period. Lower-level violations pose very low risk. Higher-level violations range from low to high safety significance, such as an improperly maintained electrical system that caused a fire affecting a plant’s ability to shut down safely.

Shutdowns at Pilgrim in 2013

Jan. 10: Trip of both recirculation pumps. Returned to full power on Jan. 17.
Jan. 20: Leak in a safety-relief valve. Returned to full power on Jan. 24.
Feb. 8: Offsite power loss and main generator load reject. Returned to full power on Feb. 16.
April 18: Refueling. Returned to full power on June 3.
Aug. 22: Electrical problems with water pumps. The plant restarted on Aug. 26, but was shut down by a steam leak on Sept. 8 before reaching full power. Returned to full power on Sept. 21.
Oct. 14: Loss of offsite power.

Source: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Posted on    October 12, 2013  

The Boston Globe: Ex-leader of Japan warns against nuclear power

IEEE Spectrum: Former NRC Chairman says Nuclear Industry is “Going Away”

Huffington Post: After Fukushima Disaster, Advocates Argue Only Safe Nuclear Power Is None At All

Patriot Ledger: State senator calls for Pilgrim nuclear plant to be shut down

Cape Cod Online: Panelists outline problems with U.S. nuclear plant safety

Patriot Ledger: Panelists say Pilgrim nuclear plant should be closed

South Coast Today: Nuclear Experts: Retire reactors

Counter Punch: Toward a Clean Energy Future: The Nuclear Forum

WBAI Pacifica Radio: New York Lessons from Fukushima

YouTube: Former PM Naoto Kan of Japan Speaks Out on Fukushima

Huffington Post: Nuclear Power Through the Fukushima Perspective

Business Week: Indian Point Nuclear Plant Should Be Shut, Ex-Regulator Says

Huffington Post: Former NRC Chair: Emergency Plans Won’t Protect Residents from Radiation

Posted on    September 10, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH – A series of mechanical difficulties at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has kept the plant from operating at peak for more than two weeks. Currently Pilgrim is completely off the electric grid, shut down Sunday evening because of a steam leak in a pipe supplying hot water to the nuclear reactor. Keep reading…

Posted on    August 26, 2013      Dave Lochbaum, UCS

Compiled by Dave Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists – A 36-page printout of events that have occurred at Pilgrim, spanning from 1965 to May 2013.* Pilgrim Events (PDF)

*Important Note: This report contains information about events that happened – not events that did not happen. In other words, just because an event is NOT listed in this report does not mean it did not happen. It might be that the ongoing research effort that yielded this report has not yet recorded the event.

Posted on    August 22, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station was manually shut down at 8 a.m. Thursday after a tripped breaker cut off power to pumps supplying water to its reactor. James Sinclair, spokesman for Entergy, the plant’s owner and operator, said Thursday the public was in no danger. The plant was put into safe shutdown mode while staff tried to figure out the cause of the tripped breaker.

The plant will remain offline until the problem is identified and fixed, Sinclair said. The facility could be put into “cold shutdown,” which takes up to 48 hours to complete, depending on what repairs are needed, he said.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the plant had 1.9 unplanned shutdowns in a 7,000-hour period. This latest shutdown could shift the plant into a category that requires tighter oversight by the federal agency.Keep reading

Posted on    August 20, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

Read the letter: Sen. Markey & Warren: Letter to Entergy

The state’s two U.S. senators recently stepped into the nuclear safety debate, writing a letter to Entergy Corp. to urge the owner-operator of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to expand the emergency planning zone and develop a realistic evacuation plan should the plant have a radioactive release.

Entergy updated its estimated evacuation times late last year for the 40-year-old plant, based on the latest U.S. Census figures. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats, said those estimates are based on “highly unrealistic” assumptions.Keep reading

Posted on    August 17, 2013      Heather Lightner

It’s that bittersweet time of year when we savor the last precious days of summer, trying to somehow make them last, yet knowing they’re about to come to an end. In a few short weeks, area parents will be packing backpacks and lunchboxes instead of beach bags, ceremoniously marking the beginning of another school year.

With the start of school, a slew of tedious paperwork will be brought home for parents to fill out and sign. In Plymouth, one of them will be a consent form authorizing the child’s school to administer potassium iodide (KI) should a radiological event occur at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. In signing this consent form, parents are forced to face the possibility of a catastrophic crisis at Pilgrim. It is a risk that all residents of Plymouth (and beyond) are forced to accept as part of living in this wonderful area, in the shadow of an operating nuclear plant.Keep reading

Posted on    August 7, 2013      Bourne Courier    Source

Even more would try to leave in case of Pilgrim nuke plant event

BUZZARDS BAY — Entergy Corp., owners of the aging Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Manomet, has completed its survey of 500 Cape Cod households, asking two key emergency evacuation questions. Fifty Bourne households were contacted.

The first question involved people leaving the Cape due to a weather emergency. Some 59 percent of the respondents said they would depart; 41 percent said no. The second question involved people departing the Cape in the case of a nuclear event at the Pilgrim station and being advised to leave. Some 70 percent said they would get off the Cape; 30 percent said they would stay behind.Keep reading

Posted on    April 10, 2013      Jeff Donn, AP National Writer    Full article (

Regulators and congressional investigators clashed Wednesday over a new report warning that in the event of an accident at a nuclear plant, panicking residents from outside the official evacuation zone might jam the roads and prevent others from escaping.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, which acts as the investigative arm of Congress, challenges a three-decade-old fundamental of emergency planning around American nuclear power plants: that preparations for evacuation should focus on people who live within 10 miles of the site…