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