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    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    January 18, 2014      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH — Concentrations of a radioactive isotope called tritium found in late December during groundwater monitoring at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station were the highest detected since testing began at the plant in 2007. Tritium — a byproduct of the nuclear fission process — was found at 69,000 picocuries per liter in a sample taken from a well adjacent to a catch basin that collects and releases waste from the reactor into Cape Cod Bay.Keep reading (Cape Cod Times)


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.

http://www.patriotledger.com/topstories/x1281960517/Pilgrim-nuclear-plant-offline-for-4th-time-this-year#ixzz2htkweZba

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    July 17, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH – The ongoing heat wave could force Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to shut down, as soaring temperatures continue to warm the Cape Cod Bay waters that the plant relies on to cool key safety systems.

Pilgrim’s license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires the water being drawn from the bay to be no warmer than 75 degrees. On Tuesday night, the temperature in the saltwater system reached 75.3 degrees and remained above the 75-degree limit for about 90 minutes. Keep reading…


Posted on    January 23, 2013      Huffington Post    Source

Two years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant in Japan — called the “worst accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history” – a fish with staggering levels of radiation has reportedly been found in the vicinity of the plant.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the fish was caught last Friday. It reportedly contained more than 2,500 times the legal limit for radiation in seafood. The AFP writes:

[Plant operator] Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said caesium equivalent to 254,000 becquerels per kilogramme — or 2,540 times more than the government seafood limit — was detected in a “murasoi” fish. The fish, similar to rockfish, was caught at a port inside the Fukushima plant, a TEPCO spokesman said.

The find is a stark reminder that fears of radiation continue to haunt the island nation years after the nuclear catastrophe rocked Japan’s waters. Read on →


Posted on    November 28, 2012      Toxics Action Center

Toxics Action Center Calls on “Dirty Dozen” Polluters to Clean up Their Act

Read the full report on the Toxics Action Center’s website: Full Report (PDF)

SOMERSET, MA — For years, Toxics Action Center has annually “celebrated” the Dirty Dozen Awards, profiling twelve of New England’s egregious polluters who the public health and environmental non-profit say have failed to take appropriate action to address their pollution problems. Today, Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth was named as one of the top 12. It was also named to the list in 2001 and 2007.

“The Dirty Dozen Award winners are dinosaurs. Their business practices are antiquated and becoming extinct. They could stave off extinction, but they would need to move forward in adopting many of the recommendations we outline in this report, including moving towards clean renewable energy and energy efficiency and phasing out persistent toxic chemicals.” said Sylvia Broude, Executive Director for Toxics Action Center.

Toxics Action Center released a report today called “25 Years of the Dirty Dozen: Past and Current Pollution Threats in New England”, profiling 12 sites and companies across New England, naming them “the most notorious pollution threats in the region” and proposing solutions to long-term pollution trends. “These Dirty Dozen awards spotlight repeat offenders who have still not cleaned up their messes along with several emergent threats, and generally highlight a wide array of toxic hazards ranging from leaking landfills to power plants, trash incinerators and hazardous waste sites. All of the sites pose a significant threat to public health and the environment and need immediate action by industry and/or government officials,” said Broude.

Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant was named a “winner” for Southeastern Massachusetts. Pilgrim Power Station’s waste and reactor contain 1,000 times the radiation levels of a Hiroshima-sized bomb. An attack on the plant could result in 100,000 deaths within a year of the accident.

“Pilgrim releases radiation daily into air and water and is built with the same flawed Mark I reactor design as Fukushima Daiichi,” said David Agnew from an active “Cape Downwinders” group and spokesperson for Pilgrim Coalition, an alliance of local groups across the South Shore and the Cape. “We need to heed the warning call of Fukushima and retire Pilgrim for good.” Pine duBois from Jones River Watershed Association, a coalition partner, also spoke, saying that the watershed group has been pursuing state and federal regulators since February, and she recently joined a lawsuit against Entergy. “Pilgrim has violated the Clean Water Act more than 33,000 times since 1996,” said duBois. “Our ocean is not Entergy’s dump: Cape Cod Bay belongs to all of us, and our regulators should enforce the laws that prevent this kind of pollution.”

The Dirty Dozen Awards were selected from a set of nominations by a thirteen-member panel of environmental and public health professionals. Other Massachusetts sites profiled in the report include Advanced Disposal’s South Hadley landfill and the General Electric PCB site in Pittsfield. Read more at www.toxicsaction.org


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Posted on    May 5, 2012  

ESA Violation Request & Exhibits (PDF) May 2, 2012

JRWA and Pilgrim Watch filed a legal appeal with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May of 2012 claiming that the NRC, Entergy, and USFWS violated the Endangered Species Act by finding that relicensing of Pilgrim will have “no effect” on the roseate tern.

Our expert’s testimony states, “If PNPS is relicensed and continues to operate for twenty more years, there is significant potential for adverse effects on roseate terns throughout that period.” Keep reading…