Insist the NRC protect our safety

Published in the Cape Cod Times May 10, 2013

Whether one is for or against nuclear power, public safety should be a concern for all.

However, the plans for the public in the event of a severe nuclear accident should be a wake-up call to the policy of protecting the nuclear industry over the public welfare.

Last October, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency director Kurt Schwartz spoke in Harwich and informed Cape residents that, in the event of a severe nuclear accident at Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, we will not be evacuated but relocated after the state determines where the dangerous levels of radioactive materials have been deposited on the land.

Schwartz said that within 50 miles of the reactor there is a very significant and deadly risk from long-term ingestion of radioactive materials. With his chilling honesty, he continued to warn that we are going to be in harm’s way. We will be in the ingestion danger zone and we will relocate. Not evacuate — relocate. It will be removal, as at Fukushima, where more than 160,000 people cannot return home.

It seems rather prudent that the plans for public safety should be proactive rather than reactive. Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor has the same fatally flawed containment structure as Fukushima Daiichi.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has known of the problems with the GE design and added vents in the ’80s. Recently, against their own technical staff recommendation for immediate implementation of additional safety enhancement of filters on the vents, the NRC majority, with the pressure of the industry, voted no. Only the chairwoman, Allison MacFarlane, supported the filters.

Also, last May the NRC relicensed Pilgrim over the objections of numerous officials: Gov. Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senate President Therese Murray, Sen. Daniel Wolf and Rep. Sarah Peake requested, considering the devastation at the Fukushima Mark 1 reactor, that public health and safety concerns be addressed before the 20-year extension was allowed. These concerns remain today.

So, why does the state plan to relocate the public after a radioactive hit rather than shut down the source of the threat to us?

We know that there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation, and that pregnant women and children are the most vulnerable to the damaging and deadly effects.

We know the devastation of Fukushima, with “no go” zones out to 20 miles.

We know the Pilgrim GE Mark 1 reactor is the same failed designed as at Fukushima, with the same failed safety backups.

We know radioactive tritium is leaking into the ground and Cape Cod Bay.

We know the highly radioactive spent fuel pool holds more than 3,300 assemblies in a pool designed for 880 because there is no place for storage and Plymouth is now the de facto waste dump.

All these are serious reasons for concern and present a threat to life as we know it on beautiful Cape Cod.

We must stand up for our own health and safety. Recently, I heard a Japanese woman speak with great sadness about how living on the Fukushima Prefecture was once a little slice of happiness, but it is no longer. That could be Cape Cod.

Those who agree that public health and safety trumps profit, and those who love the Cape, should vote “yes” on their town ballot or at town meeting to call on Gov. Patrick to request that the NRC uphold its mandate to provide for public health and safety and shut Entergy’s Pilgrim nuclear reactor because the health and safety of our beloved community and environment cannot be assured.

Diane Turco lives in Harwich.

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