Heightened Concerns about Pilgrim Nuclear Safety Heading into July 4th Holiday
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.
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.”
In addition, Entergy has had multiple problems with its fire brigade team that is responsible for preventing and controlling fires. The risk of nuclear meltdown from fire hazards is about equal to the meltdown risk from all other hazards combined.
“Our 4th of July wish for a safe holiday is to gain independence from untrained replacement workers and an equitable end to this lockout to get those who know what they are doing back on the job,” said Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch.
In an effort to increase police presence this week, to ease public safety work and to ensure residents have a safe and happy holiday, UWUA Local 369 has reduced the number of picketers outside of Pilgrim over the next four days. The move follows Entergy’s decision last Saturday to terminate medical coverage for workers and their families facing a variety of health issues, including cancer treatment, surgery, childbirth and chronic illness. Negotiations with Entergy are scheduled to resume Friday morning.
“We are glad that Entergy is coming back to the table, but we hope it is not to offer us another contract that simply nickels and dimes our workers,” said Hurley. “Entergy pays its top executives tens of millions of dollars, and the company has a $100 million fleet of private jets. The company has also wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars during this lockout, flying and busing in out-of-state workers with no previous experience at Pilgrim and on inaccurate ads in local papers. Given all this, the company should certainly be able to afford a fair contract for the hardworking men and women who live in and work to keep our communities safe and make this plant extremely profitable for management.”
Heightened safety concerns at the plant follow a major State House rally last week, where elected officials and labor leaders throughout the Commonwealth joined locked out workers to protest Entergy’s decision to place greed before safety.
“A fair resolution should be everyone’s goal, and the process of getting there should in no way leave people in Plymouth, the South Shore, and Cape Cod wondering whether shortcuts or understaffing are shortchanging their expectations for the highest level of safety,” Senator John Kerry said in a statement prior to the rally.
Congressman Steven Lynch in a statement last week said it was important for public safety that Entergy end the lockout and return to the bargaining table.
“I don’t believe that is the way you treat hard working, skilled employees and their families and I don’t believe that is a safe way to operate a nuclear power plant,” he said.
Entergy operates or manages 11 nuclear power plants around the nation, including those in Michigan, Vermont, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.