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    April 25, 2014      Mary Lampert, Pilgrim Watch    OCM/Wicked Local

Industries that can harm the public have “tobacco scientists” and lobbyists to promote their message. The Pilgrim nuclear plant is no exception, and denies the pattern of radiation-linked cancers and disease around it.

Industries that can harm the public have “tobacco scientists” and lobbyists to promote their message. The Pilgrim nuclear plant is no exception, and denies the pattern of radiation-linked cancers and disease around it.

Pilgrim’s spin doctors choose to rely on fiction, not facts. We rely on the National Academies (our nation’s premier scientists). The National Academies’ latest report said there is no safe dose of radiation and that exposure to even very low levels of radiation is three times more dangerous than previously expected – and more so for children and women. We rely also on statistics from the Massachusetts Cancer Registry. In 1982 it began recording data showing a continued increase in radiation-linked cancers in communities around Pilgrim.

A review of Massachusetts Cancer Registry data shows that Plymouth (from 2002-2009) has a statistically significant increased level of leukemia, at a 95 percent probability level. This means that there is, at most, a 5 percent chance that the difference between the observed and expected cases of leukemia is due to chance. There also is a statistically significant increased level of prostate cancer, another radiation-linked disease.

For the previous two decades, the Massachusetts Cancer Registry shows the “footprints” of radiation-linked disease (leukemia, thyroid cancer, multiple myeloma and prostate cancer) in the seven towns most likely to be impacted by Pilgrim – Carver, Duxbury, Kingston, Marshfield, Pembroke, Plymouth and Plympton. The Cape is downwind from Pilgrim much of the year. It, along with Southeastern Massachusetts, has the highest cancer rates in the state. There has not yet been a study to determine whether radiation emissions from Pilgrim are the missing variable to explain the high cancer rates there.

A major case-control study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) in 1990 found a four-fold increase in adult leukemia the closer one lived to or if one worked at Pilgrim. Pilgrim did not like the results and cut a political deal allowing it to appoint a second peer review panel to re-review the study and write a report. Even Pilgrim’s handpicked panel concluded that, “The original study team adhered to generally accepted epidemiological principles… [And] …the findings of the study cannot be readily dismissed on the basis of methodological errors or proven biases… [and last]…the association found between leukemia and proximity to the Pilgrim nuclear facility was unexpectedly strong.”

Pilgrim apologists say radiation from Pilgrim is closely monitored and controlled. Not so. Pilgrim collects its own environmental samples, fewer now than previous years; analyzes the samples in their own lab; and writes its own reports – the equivalent of letting students write and grade their own exams. MDPH has a very limited offsite monitoring program due to lack of finances. Since 2007, there have been onsite monitoring wells to detect radioactive tritium leaks before they enter Cape Cod Bay. Leaks of tritium are evident but not the source. If more wells were installed, would more releases be detected?

Pilgrim place real-time air monitors in off-site communities. Pilgrim refused to do so. MDPH began its own, very limited offsite air-monitoring program in 2010.

Pilgrim’s operational history affects us today. Pilgrim began operations with bad fuel and without filtration. In 1982, Pilgrim blew its toxic filters, spewing hot particles into neighborhoods. A state-sponsored study showed that weather conditions then were worst-case for holding contamination over local communities and Cape Cod. Environmental samples showed Cesium-137 in milk samples from a close-by farm was 1 million times greater than expected; no Cesium-137 was found in control samples. A similar pattern was recorded by Pilgrim in other environmental samples. Pilgrim claimed it was due, not to it, but to Chinese test bombs. You decide. Did the Chinese have “smart” test bombs that targeted Pilgrim’s indicator samples but not their control samples?

Spin doctors cannot raise the dead or make the sick well. If the dead and sick with radiation-linked diseases are significantly more prevalent near Pilgrim than in communities distant, the conclusion seems obvious.

Mary Lampert is a resident of Duxbury, founder and director of Pilgrim Watch, and co-chairman of the town of Duxbury’s Nuclear Advisory Committee.


Posted on    March 31, 2014  

Right now, 5 very important bills are under consideration that will increase public safety and protect public health. If they pass, it will cost Entergy a hefty sum of money to implement.

Bill H.2045 188th – An Act increasing nuclear power plant protections to a twenty mile radius
(Current) Sponsors: Sarah Peake & Ann Margaret Ferrante
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H2045

Bill H.1906 1188th – An Act increasing nuclear power plant protections to a twenty mile radius
(Current) Sponsor: James Cantwell
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H1906

Bill H.1907 188th – An Act to amend Section 5K(E) of Chapter 111
(Current) Sponsor: James Cantwell
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H1907
Asks to increase Massachusetts Department of Health’s (MDPH) assessment from a maximum $180,000 per annum, to an initial assessment of not less than $400,000 per facility. It addresses the fact that the Commonwealth has insufficient funds to be able to perform its legislatively required monitoring, surveillance and emergency response obligations in communities likely to be affected by emissions from Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee, and Seabrook.

Bill H.2046 188th – An Act relative to radiological air monitoring
(Current) Sponsors: Sarah Peake & Ann Margaret Ferrante
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H2046

Bill H.2180 188th – An Act relative to emergency planning
(Current) Sponsors: Sarah Peake & Ann Margaret Ferrante
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/188/House/H2180

What You Can Do!

Call and/or Email your legislators and ask them to support these bills:

Senate: https://malegislature.gov/People/Senate
House: https://malegislature.gov/People/House

Call the Joint Committee of Public Health:

Senate Committee Chair, John Keenan (617) 722-1494 john.keenan@masenate.gov
House Committee Chair, Jeffrey Sanchez (617) 722-2130 mailto:jeffrey.sanchez@mahouse.gov


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    March 17, 2014      APCC

The Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod has released their study:
http://www.apcc.org/documents/pdfs/statements/2014/March/Pilgrim-3-17-14.pdf

“Based on the importance of Cape Cod’s natural resources and the impacts and threats posed by Pilgrim, APCC calls on public officials and regulatory agencies to revoke Pilgrim’s permits and to require that Pilgrim be decommissioned in the shortest time and safest manner feasible. We also recommend additional measures to safeguard the Cape’s environment and human population.”


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    November 12, 2013      Frank Mand, OCM    Source

PLYMOUTH — Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dr. Allison Macfarlane insisted that neither the recently announced layoffs at Pilgrim Station nor the drop in its performance rating – and not even the debate over dry cask storage – had anything to do with her visit to Plymouth. But you have to admire her timing. Keep reading…


Posted on    November 9, 2013      Christine Legere, Cape Cod Times    Source

PLYMOUTH — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s top official toured the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Friday and later told reporters the 41-year-old plant, plagued by mechanical problems, is headed for trouble with federal regulators unless it improves its performance.

When asked whether the NRC would ever close Pilgrim, Allison Macfarlane said the agency has the authority to shutter any plant for as long as it takes for the operation to turn around and run safely.

“We did that with Fort Calhoun in Nebraska, and it’s been closed for two years,” the commission chairman said. “Pilgrim is not in the worst shape yet, but it’s headed that way, and we want to make sure they don’t get there.”

Macfarlane’s visit was routine, but it came at the end of a tough week for Pilgrim.

On Monday, the NRC announced a performance rating drop for the Plymouth plant based on shutdowns with complications over the last several months. The downgrade placed Pilgrim among 22 reactors nationwide that will be more closely watched by federal regulators. Currently it leads the nation’s 100 reactors in shutdowns this year.

Entergy Corp., Pilgrim’s owner-operator, was informed by the NRC on Wednesday that the plant’s standing is expected to fall even further at the close of the year’s fourth quarter, based on its high number of unplanned shutdowns in general.

That further downgrade will place the Plymouth plant among the nation’s eight worst performers.Keep reading


Posted on    November 5, 2013      Christine Legere    Source (Cape Cod Times)

PLYMOUTH – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be watching Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s performance more closely because of complications during unplanned shutdowns of the facility’s reactor over the past year.

The NRC on Monday released third quarter performance reports for the nation’s 100 nuclear power plants.

Pilgrim, which is owned by Entergy Nuclear and located in Plymouth, had two shutdowns with complications so far this year. Such shutdowns should be extremely rare, according to Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan. The maximum allowed by the NRC in a year is one.

Pilgrim will receive “an increased level of oversight,” Sheehan wrote in an email. An NRC inspection team will visit the plant and scrutinize the root cause for recent problems.

Pilgrim is also walking a fine line for unplanned shutdowns in general. No more than three are allowed in a 7,000-hour period of operation. When the third quarter ended, the plant was at 2.9. That number did not include the Oct. 14 unplanned shutdown, which will be considered at the end of the fourth quarter.


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.

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 30, 2013  

What is KI – What is it for?

In a nuclear reactor accident, radioactive iodine is released; it can cause thyroid cancer/disease, and mental retardation in children of exposed pregnant women. Children and infants, including the unborn, are most vulnerable. KI protects by blocking the thyroid with a harmless form of iodine.

KI must be taken before or shortly after exposure – within six hours. It does not protect against other harmful radioactive releases or other potential health effects. One dose of KI protects for 24 hours.

KI is FDA approved and stockpiled around the world. Adverse reactions are possible for those who are allergic to iodine; if allergic to iodine (shellfish or table salt) check with your doctor.

Where do I get it?

KI is stockpiled for the public in several local Public Schools; participating private schools and daycare centers; emergency shelters; and, the Emergency Reception Center in Braintree. Check your community’s policy.

Parental permission is required for school children. Unaccompanied minors at our Town Shelters and Reception Center will not receive KI unless parental permission has been given ahead of time.

To protect your family, you should have your own supply at home.

Some local Boards of Health offices (including Duxbury and Marshfield) give out free KI pills to residents.

The two manufacturers in the United States are listed below.

ANBEX, Inc. – IOSAT Tablets
ANBEX, Inc., PMB 284 35246 U.S.
19 N. Palm Harbor, FL 34684-1931
727-329-1115 ext. 1524
http://www.anbex.com
ThyroidShield – Liquid KI
http://www.thyroshield.com

For more information, contact:

Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Radiation Control Program

617-242-3035
http://www.state.ma.us/dph/rcp


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…