Whale Sightings Near Nuclear Station Raises Concern
PLYMOUTH, MA – The international organization, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS), and the local groups, Jones River Watershed Association (JRWA) and Pilgrim Watch, called for a thorough investigation of pollution impacts on North Atlantic right whales from Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Plymouth, following recent whale sightings about a half mile off shore of the station on Cape Cod Bay. On April 17, three North Atlantic right whales, among the most endangered large whales on earth, were spotted swimming in front of the Pilgrim reactor. Consistent sightings of right whales off Plymouth have been reported since late November.
Since it began operating in 1972, Entergy’s nuclear station has been sucking in and discharging up to 510 million gallons per day of polluted cooling water into Cape Cod Bay in the same area of the western shore where whales are being seen. The known pollutants include chlorine, biocides and water that is up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. While conservation groups are urging officials to explore the situation, Entergy is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to continue these operations for another 20 years.
On February 6, 2012 two of the groups asked the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service for a thorough investigation of the impact on endangered whales, turtles, and river herring from this discharge practice. In early April, WDCS also sent a letter outlining concerns about continued operations. These groups continue to examine and collect data showing the impact of the plant’s operations on Cape Cod Bay and have asked state and federal agencies to deny a new license until Entergy’s outdated cooling system is fixed and marine life is protected.
WDCS Executive Director and Senior Biologist, Regina Asmutis-Silvia, is happy that Cape Cod Bay is protected as a critical habitat for North Atlantic right whales. She often stresses that with fewer than 500 North Atlantic right whales remaining, everything from habitat degradation to ship strikes are threats that need to be addressed by the public. She and her staff see this as the perfect time to remind others of the battle WDCS fights everyday – whales face a staggering number of threats and it is up to everyone to mitigate them. The outflow from Pilgrim is simply one of the many factors humans have introduced to their natural environment; it is also one of the cumulative factors that impacts the recovery of the right whale. WDCS and their supporters look to the future as they plan to eradicate the threats that take their toll on this depleted population.
According to Pine duBois of Jones River Watershed Association “Entergy’s operations cause unacceptable damage to our fisheries and the ecosystem that supports all marine life including the great whales and the plankton and fish they eat for food. There are alternatives to the operating methods Entergy is using that are less harmful and those should be implemented now.”
Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch added, “It is not OK for the NRC to look the other way and pretend that 510 million gallons a day of toxic pollution into Cape Cod Bay is not having an impact. This is just one more reason why Pilgrim should be fixed, clean up its act, or be closed immediately.”
Please join WDCS and a panel of experts at Plimoth Plantation on Thursday May 3, 2012 for a free public screening of Ocean Frontiers: The Dawn of a New Era in Ocean Stewardship and an expert panel discussion. Tickets are available at www.whales.org