Pilgrim license transfer draws outrage
- Aug 25, 2019 10:21 am GMT
- 119 views
Aug. 24--PLYMOUTH -- News that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the transfer of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station's license from Entergy Corp. to Holtec International late Thursday has been greeted with outrage from Attorney General Maura Healey, the region's federal and state legislators and local citizens groups, who all say their concerns have been ignored.
In a written statement Friday, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey called the commission's decision "misguided."
-- Read more about the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station
"We continue to have serious concerns about Holtec's financial capacity, technical qualifications and judgment to safely and properly clean up the site and store and manage Pilgrim's spent nuclear fuel," spokeswoman Chloe Gotsis said.
Gostis added the attorney general was reviewing "all of our available options to ensure the health, safety and interests of our residents and the environment are protected."
Entergy Corp., the company that bought Pilgrim from Boston Edison in 1999, applied in November to the NRC for a license transfer to Holtec. Holtec has promised accelerated decommissioning, saying it can dismantle the reactor and other buildings, move the spent radioactive fuel into massive dry casks and clean up the site in about eight years.
As part of approval, Holtec Pilgrim, the owner of record, and Holtec Decommissioning International, the decommissioning operator, secured an exemption that allows use of the plant's $1.1 billion decommissioning trust fund for spent fuel management and site restoration.
Several attempts at allowing the public a say in the transfer review were made in the past several months.
In February, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the attorney general's office filed a petition to intervene in the NRC's review of Pilgrim's sale and license transfer. State officials questioned Holtec's financial ability to decommission Pilgrim and called for a full environmental review of the reactor site before decommissioning. They also requested a public hearing.
A citizens group called Pilgrim Watch filed a similar request.
To date, the NRC has not acted on either.
The state attorney general's office more recently asked the NRC to put the license transfer review on hold for 90 days to allow state officials and the plant owner time to reach a settlement agreement. The NRC denied that request.
And on Wednesday, the day before the transfer approval, the attorney general sent a seven-page letter to the NRC questioning Holtec's truthfulness, citing the company's admission to bribery of a Tennessee Valley Authority employee in 2007. More recently state officials in New Jersey froze a $260 million tax break secured by Holtec when they discovered the company had lied on its application, the attorney general said.
U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. William Keating, all Massachusetts Democrats, urged the NRC last week to hear from state officials and citizens groups before approving the license transfer.
After the transfer, Markey wrote that the "Nuclear Regulatory Commission is abdicating any responsibility for protecting public health and safety." He called the license transfer approval "rushed and uninformed."
Although the NRC can still belatedly grant the petitions to intervene and hold hearings for public input, Mary Lampert, director of Pilgrim Watch, said "the game is over" now that the license transfer has been approved.
"They rubber-stamped the baseless assumptions provided by Holtec," Lampert said.
The attorney general and Pilgrim Watch have 10 days to comment on the license transfer. "Comments will be why they should hold the license transfer in abeyance until they listen to the plethora of facts we have that there are insufficient funds, that a new environmental assessment should be done," Lampert said.
Diane Turco, president of the anti-nuclear group Cape Downwinders, expressed her own frustration.
"The NRC approval of the license transfer without full hearings on contentions related to radiological, environmental and financial concerns is an affront to any open and responsible decommissioning process," Turco said. "Once again, the public interest loses."
State Sens. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and Viriato "Vinny" deMacedo, R-Plymouth, added their disappointment.
"It's disturbing that Massachusetts has not been treated fairly in this matter," Cyr said. "The attorney general highlighted serious concerns about Holtec that need to be answered."
DeMacedo said he worries about Holtec's financial ability to complete decommissioning.
"If they run out of that billion dollars, who's liable?" he said. "I hope this is a message to other states around the country. There has to be some power given to the community where the plant is and to the state."
-- Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.
(c)2019 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
Visit Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. at www.capecodtimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.