Fighting mad over NRC decisionPlymouth, Pilgrim Watch plan to protest Pilgrim sale approval
- Aug 23, 2019 11:43 pm GMT
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PLYMOUTH - The people are mad and they are fighting back. The commonwealth of Massachusetts and Pilgrim Watch filed a motion Thursday with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requesting a 10-day stay if and when the license transfer application (LTA) of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to Holtec International is approved.
This move comes after the NRC announced this week it would approve the LTA on or about Aug. 21. Local officials and residents opposing the proposed sale by Entergy Inc. were upset by the news.
"We're extremely disappointed," said Ken Tavares, chair of Plymouth's Select Board. "We support the Massachusetts attorney general's filing for a 90-day stay to review the transfer. There's still a lot of negotiating to be done. Ninety days means a lot to us."
He added, "The NRC has a long history of not putting citizens first. I am disappointed by this decision, but not surprised."
Duxbury resident, Mary Lampert, longtime director of Pilgrim Watch, was even more forceful in her assessment:
"The NRC decision to approve it, before considering the petitions and before any hearing, belies anything the NRC might tell you about it having any concerns for the public. The NRC's statement that approval of the license transfer would be subject to the commission's ability to condition the transfer 'based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing' is a joke. There is a zero chance that the NRC would, or even could, undo the transfer after it had been accomplished and the new owner had started decommissioning."
Motions were previously filed by both Attorney General Maura Healey and Pilgrim Watch requesting hearings on the license transfer application. According to Neil Sheehan, NRC Public Affairs spokesman, those legal contentions are still in play and may still have an impact on the outcome.
"The license transfer and the hearing requests are being handled separately," he said. "If a hearing was granted and took place, and the license transfer had taken place, the commission could retroactively require changes to the plant's license."
Holtec and Entergy released a joint statement on the NRC approval of the LTA:
"Entergy and Holtec believe that the transfer of Pilgrim to Holtec for prompt decommissioning is in the best interests of the town of Plymouth and surrounding communities, the nearly 270 people from the region who work at Pilgrim, and the commonwealth. We are confident that the license transfer application demonstrated that Holtec possesses the technical and financial qualifications required to safely decommission Pilgrim. We look forward to completing the transaction if regulatory approval is obtained."
Plymouth and the state wanted to complete negotiations with Holtec prior to the NRC decision. Both parties were hoping to come to agreements with the company about its plans and other details, including payments in lieu of taxes. However, Holtec stated it would not negotiate until the LTA was approved by the NRC. Now that that has happened, the town is still waiting to hear from the corporation.
"Holtec said they would be in Plymouth in mid-August," Tavares said. "We haven't seen them and we have not heard from them."
The crux of the concerns is Holtec's ability to do what they say the can do: clean up all radioactive material at Plymouth's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, which ceased operations on May 31, in eight years. One of the company's divisions - Holtec Decommissioning Inc. - would be responsible for this effort, even though it has never decommissioned a nuclear power plant on an accelerated timeline before.
It is believed that Holtec will attempt to clean up the site in eight years using the $1.1 billion decommissioning fund and pocket as profit whatever is left over. However, critics are concerned that the fund is insufficient for the task and that Holtec will walk away from the project, leaving the town and state to finish it.
"This decision shows that NRC does not have any regard for either due process or the public interest," Lampert said. "It is crystal clear that NRC is captured by the industry. When the regulator does not follow its own rules, don't expect that it will require the nuclear industry to do so either when cleaning up Pilgrim or paying the full tab."
Also of concern is the parent company's legal problems. Holtec is facing numerous allegations of unethical and illegal actions in regards to its business practices. According to ProPublica, Politico and other media sources, the company has been accused of failing to disclose important details about legal proceedings against it, including that it had been temporarily banned from working with a federal agency for paying $50,000 to secure a contract, had tax credits revoked for noncompliance and that its CEO was questioned as part of a criminal investigation.
In an effort to gain time, the attorney general's office and Pilgrim Watch joined together Thursday to file the latest motion for a request to stay the LTA approval. The motion asks "that any enlargement of time granted to the Commonwealth for filing its stay application also apply to Pilgrim Watch."
Plymouth will also fight the decision, though Tavares is not sure what form of protest that will take. The town is examining what it can do and is formulating a strategy. All Tavares knows is that he is very upset with the NRC announcement.
"I am so angry," he said. "We never got a fair shot."
He added, "No one listens to us. We got stuck with the waste after we were assured that would not happen. We are looking at dangerous potentials down the road. The truth is, the blame can be placed at the foot of the federal government."