The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Cape Cod Bay is directly in the path of the historic winter storm due to hit Plymouth, Mass. starting Friday. According to information from the National Weather Service, there could bewidespread prolonged power outages, coastal flooding and erosion, and hurricane force winds.
Local groups have asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to order Entergy Corporation, Pilgrim’s operator, to take the reactor offline during the storm to prevent an unacceptable risk to the public and the environment. This storm differs from Hurricane Sandy because it is hitting Plymouth during high tide, not low tide, and will be accompanied by heavy snow and ice.
The groups say that a prolonged power outage, flooding, high winds, and snow and ice could cause several serious problems at Pilgrim. First, the pumps that circulate water through the pool of high-‐level nuclear waste could fail. If this happens, the water in the spent fuel pool would eventually evaporate, exposing the spent fuel to air. Second, Pilgrim’s cooling water intake pumps, which take in over 500 million gallons of water per day from Cape Cod Bay to cool the reactor, could flood or fail. Under either scenario, there could be an explosion that would release radioactive material throughout the region.
“This is predicted to be a historic storm with severe consequences,” said Pine DuBois, Executive Director of Jones River Watershed Association. “Winds are supposed to pick up Friday night during high tide and continue through the even higher tide Saturday morning. Near hurricane gusts will be out of the east, hitting Pilgrim head-‐on. At other times during high winds, Pilgrim’s water intake pumps have failed.”
“Entergy could not keep the lights on during the Super Bowl -‐ can we be sure they’ll provide enough power to Pilgrim during the storm?” duBois added.
According to Karen Vale, Campaign Manager at Cape Cod Bay Watch, “This historic storm emphasizes that rising sea levels and frequent, more severe storms make Pilgrim’s continued operations increasing risky. We hope that the NRC will close Pilgrim until the threat of the storm passes.”
Entergy lockout of experienced workers extends to one month amid mounting concerns over the cancellation of critical safety drills and inadequately trained replacement workers doubling up on critical safety tasks
PLYMOUTH, MA PRNewswire Source →
Local workers and concerned citizens have expressed heightened concerns about the safety of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant heading into one of the most densely populated days in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Plymouth hosts one of the Commonwealth’s largest annual Fourth of July celebrations, with tourists flocking to the region for a variety of events, including fireworks, live music and a parade.
Questions and concerns about the safety of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant reached new levels over the past month since Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. locked out 240 experienced members of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 – many of who have been operating the 40-year-old facility for decades. During the past four weeks, Entergy has cancelled a vital safety drill that has yet to be rescheduled, forced replacement workers unfamiliar with the Pilgrim Plant to double up on critical safety responsibilities, and at times has had to significantly reduce power output at the plant to cope with leaks and overheating.
“We’re extremely concerned that Entergy is cutting corners on vital safety and maintenance operations because the company doesn’t have enough workers in the plant who are knowledgeable about Pilgrim,” said Dan Hurley, president of UWUA Local 369. “More people come to Plymouth during this week than at virtually any other point in the year, with families and tourists visiting from all over the country for the outstanding Fourth of July Celebration this community hosts. There is never a good time to shortcut critical safety measures at a nuclear power plant, and certainly not now.”
Cape Cod Bay Watch Source →
While Pilgrim was in the middle of a shut down due to a cooling system malfunction, the NRC decided it was time to reissue the 20 year operating license. This is an outrage, and groups vow to continue the fight against the dangerous, polluting reactor in Plymouth.
“Sometimes equipment doesn’t operate as you would hope.”Entergy spokesman Jack Alexander, Entergy Manager of Government Affairs (in State House News Service, Andy Metzger, May 23, 2012)
Well, that about says it, Jack! You’ve admitted Pilgrim isn’t safe and that you can’t ensure that it will operate for another 20 years “the way you would hope”!
Entergy’s accident on May 22 sent superheated water from a backwash operation into Cape Cod Bay. The U.S. EPA and the state DEP are AWOL and refuse to answer our questions about what happened with this outdated cooling water system that’s falling apart.
Meanwhile, Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard CEO and lobbyists got their Republican buddies in the House to chastise the NRC for being “unfair” to Entergy. Pilgrim Coalition wrote back, blasting Fred Upton and his cronies on the House Energy and Commerce Committee for doing the bidding of Entergy, a Louisiana carpetbagger making $1-million a day off the backs of Massachusetts ratepayers: May 24, 2012: PC Letter to US House
And then the NRC decides to issue the new license – but the outgoing Chairman of the Commission blasts the decision as unfair to Massachusetts residents who have valid concerns over safety and the environment that have not been addressed. Read the Chairman’s Comments here: May 21, 2012: Jaczko blasts NRC
The NRC’s decision is ILLEGAL and we will pursue the many other avenues available to us to shut Pilgrim down. The fight to shut down Pilgrim has just begun!
Entergy employs 422 workers at Pilgrim.
Recently, 380 workers in Local 369, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, voted to strike if a contract isn’t reached by May 15, 2012. Nearly all 380 employees are in high-level roles.
Taking Pilgrim off-line permanently does not mean immediate job loss.
A large work force will be needed to decommission, a process that would take at least 7 years. Workers will be needed for the safe storage of existing radioactive waste fuel at the site for decades—at least until the federal government builds a nuclear waste storage depository. Entergy owns many other sites for job transfers, and the nuclear industry as a whole is understaffed for skilled workers, so these workers are in demand.
Maine Yankee (MY) provides a case study for decommissioning.
MY was somewhat larger than Pilgrim (840 MW vs. 715 MW), although Pilgrim has been operating longer and has more spent fuel. MY was decommissioned 11 years short of its 35-year expected operating life. Decommissioning took 7 years after closing, from 1997 to 2004. On-site storage of spent fuel rods is expected to last for 30 years, and requires on-site maintenance. MY employed 360 on-site workers at the time it stopped operating, after two years there were 200 working, but by 2002 there were 430 people employed in decommissioning. Maine Yankee found workers leaving so quickly for jobs elsewhere that the company had to institute a “Golden Handcuffs” program, bonuses to retain needed workers.
Unfair to Entergy? Or to Massachusetts?
Entergy bought Pilgrim in 1999 for the equivalent of $11 million (about the cost of the new fuel load then being delivered). Boston Edison, the prior owner, was made whole by deregulation of energy companies. Entergy owns a decommissioning division.
The real question is the cost to the Commonwealth if something goes wrong.
Entergy formed a limited liability company for Pilgrim, and the federal Price Anderson Act caps Entergy’s liability, and excludes clean-up costs. The Commonwealth and Federal government —i.e. taxpayers and area residents—will bear the extraordinary burden of any significant accident. Pilgrim is among the oldest nuclear generating facilities still operating in the country and the world.
Entergy owns and operates power plants in the U.S. with about 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and is the second-largest nuclear generator in the U.S., owning 10 nuclear plants. Its’ 2010 revenues were $11 billion.
“Economic Consequences of the Early Closure of Maine Yankee Atomic Power Plant, Wiscasset, Maine, the First Five Years” By Ray Shadis, consulting technical advisor to New England Coalition
“Maine Yankee Decommissioning Experience Report, Detailed Experiences, 1997-2004″ Prepared for EPRI and Maine Yankee by New Horizon Scientific, LLC
Entergy blocks town from participation in the “ten-mile” emergency plan, even though part of Plympton is within that radius. The town has to get permission from the NRC. Entergy uses the slogan “Safety First”, but evidently not for Plympton.
Wicked Local Source →