Nuclear safety should be a concern
I put forward an article regarding nuclear safety before the forthcoming annual Town Meeting. If you feel strongly about a new high school, seawall improvements, a community center, etc., you should feel similarly compelled to understand an issue that protects you from a nuclear disaster.
To be clear, the article up for town vote is neither anti nor pro-nuclear. It is simply focused on safety improvements at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. The nuclear reactor’s license expires this June and the Entergy Corporation, its owner, applied for a new 20-year license. The reactor was originally designed to operate for 40 years, which has already lapsed!
Pilgrim has many safety shortfalls. The largest threat is that the reactor was originally designed to hold 880 spent fuel assemblies; it now has more than 3,200 in an overcrowded pool. If the reactor loses electricity (used to cool rods), the fuel can combust and cause a meltdown.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a federal agency, has a “comfortable relationship” with the nuclear power industry and is not requiring needed safety changes before re-licensing the plant. After last year’s nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, the NRC created a task force that developed recommendations including lessons learned from that catastrophe. This article simply requests that these same safety fixes are made prior to granting Pilgrim a new license. Pilgrim’s construction is the same design as the Fukushima reactors.
The nuclear industry has a lot of money – and money talks. It is no coincidence that on the anniversary of Fukushima last month, Entergy ran full-page ads in the Boston Globe and the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial, among other papers, in an effort to convince the public that Pilgrim is safe. One of the industry’s biggest arguments is that an accident like Fukushima could never happen here. They declare adequate back-up systems and purport that we are immune to nuclear disasters. Preposterous! It doesn’t take a tsunami or an earthquake to cause a disaster; all it takes is loss of power. New England has seen many days of lost power from rain and high winds alone.
Only a sliver of Marshfield is included in the 10-mile radius of the Emergency Planning Zone that surrounds Pilgrim but, as we learned after Fukushima, 10 miles is woefully lacking. In fact, the U.S. government recommended that Americans within 50 miles of Fukushima evacuate.
This presented article is non-binding and it cannot require anything of Pilgrim. The article is just a way for concerned citizens to voice concern to our representatives. We will not sit back and wait to become the next nuclear evacuation zone. Marshfield is one of five towns on the South Shore, including Duxbury, Scituate, Kingston and Plymouth, and at least six towns on Cape Cod, voting on this issue. We are not alone.
I have two young children and want them to live in this lovely community without exposure to the threat of, or heaven forbid, the actual effects of radiation. No one should be put at risk because a for-profit company doesn’t want to spend money on safety upgrades. Please raise your voice so that Entergy will hear us. Vote yes for nuclear safety on article 23 at the upcoming Town Meeting.