Plymouth Politicians Write NRC Final Time on Pilgrim Nuke Plant
Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray, state Rep. Tom Calter, and state Rep. Vinny deMacedo ask the NRC once more to consider lessons learned from Fukushima in granting Pilgrim a new license.
As the NRC moves into the final weeks of the relicensing process for Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, Plymouth’s state delegation is taking one last shot at getting their points across about safety at the 40-year-old plant. Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, and state representatives Tom Calter, D-Kingston, and Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko last week to express their concerns over the relicensing of Pilgrim. Particularly when it comes to the lessons learned from last March’s disaster at the Fukushima-Diichi plant in Japan.
The delegation took exception to the NRC’s decision to not take the report of the “Near-Term Task Force” commissioned by the NRC after the accident at Fukushima. The NRC has stated that it will use the reports in future considerations but not in current relicensing processes. In the letter, the delegation cited several recommendations they would like to see considered before the plant is relicensed.
Among these recommendations, the Task Force discussed various issues which we believe should be addressed prior to the relicensing of Pilgrim. Those recommendations include increasing the “minimum coping time” to eight hours at each unit. In other words, the systems that would take over would have to be able to sustain their operations for at least eight hours, in a manner that requires minimal operator action. The Task Force also recommended an “extended coping capability” of 72 hours, during which time operators could either restore power or deploy portable equipment that could sustainably cool the nuclear core, andthe spent fuel pools. The Task Force additionally recommended requiring the “coping systems and equipment” to be stored fifteen to twenty feet above the flooding level of the plant.
The letter also reiterates the main concerns of Gov. Deval Patrick and Attorney General Martha Coakley, including the spent fuel rod pools.
With regard to spent fuel pools, as the promise of a nuclear waste depository may never be fulfilled, we not only support, but also expect the transfer of the spent fuel rods currently sitting at Pilgrim into dry cask storage. For several years now we have asked for this important public safety initiative to be done and for equally as many years, our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. This is a primary concern of several elected ofñcials in the Commonwealth, including the Governor and the Attorney General.
In an e-mail to The Manomet Current, Pilgrim Watch leader Mary Lampert states the NRC ignored its own rules and decided “to call the winner before the game is over.” She also argued that the action Borchardt recommends only applies to uncontested license renewal applications, which is not the case for Pilgrim Station.
The power plant has gone through a detailed review over the past six years including safety and technical reviews as part of the NRC’s license renewal process. The relicensing process has been challenged on several occasions by Pilgrim Watch, the Jones River Watershed Association, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and several other organizations and government agencies.
This Saturday, the people of Plymouth will get to have their say, in a non-binding referendum that would ask the Selectmen to “to call upon the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to immediately suspend all further action on the application of the Entergy Corporation for renewal of its license to operate the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station pending the full implementation of all safety improvements recommended by the NRC as a result of lessons learned
from the failures of similarly designed reactors in Fukushima, Japan.”
Pilgrim’s current license expires on June 6.