The owners of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth would have to pay an additional $58 million in annual expenses for its spent fuel storage and eventual decommissioning under legislation filed by Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich. Merrily Cassidy/Cape Cod Times file
By Christine Legere
Posted Jan. 21, 2015 @ 2:00 am
Updated at 7:44 AM
The owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station could be hit with an additional $58 million in annual costs, if two bills filed by state Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, become law.
Entergy Corp. would have to pony up $33 million each year for its use of a cooling pool for waste storage at the Plymouth facility and $25 million annually to ensure enough cash is on hand to decommission the plant when the time comes, according to language in the two bills.
Under Wolf’s first proposal, Entergy would be charged a $10,000 fee for every spent fuel bundle stored in the pool on the upper floor of Pilgrim’s reactor. Based on the 3,300 assemblies currently stored there, the annual fee would be $33 million.
Plymouth, as host community for the plant, would get 30 percent of the money, or $9.9 million. Fifty percent would be split among 33 towns, including the 15 in Barnstable County, to address plant-related concerns. Based on current figures, each would get about $1.1 million.
The final 20 percent would go into a state fund to support green communities programs.
“Pilgrim isn’t an energy issue; it’s a public safety issue,” Wolf said. “We want to really incentivize Entergy to move more spent fuel out of the pool because it lowers the public safety risk. Right now they’re only moving enough into dry casks to make room for more spent fuel in the pool.”
Wolf said his list of towns that will financially benefit is based on concerns they have expressed. “We want to make sure they have money to address their concerns,” he said.
State Sen. Viriato “Vinny” deMacedo, a Plymouth Republican and longtime state representative before he was elected last year to replace Senate President Therese Murray, said he agrees with Wolf’s bill “in concept.”
“Plymouth has become a de facto spent fuel repository and it should be compensated,” deMacedo said. “I filed something similar to this bill in the House in 2006, and the attorney general said we couldn’t tax spent fuel because it’s federal property. But if it is possible, I’d certainly want to get some revenue to our communities.”
The $25 million annual payment to a decommissioning fund will ensure the money’s there when Pilgrim shuts down, Wolf said. While federal regulations require plant owners to pay into decommissioning funds, Entergy had only half of the $1.2 billion needed to fully dismantle Vermont Yankee when it went offline in December.
“We allow plants up to 60 years for decommissioning,” said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan. “They can put the plant into storage while they build up the fund. That’s what Vermont Yankee is proposing.”
Systems will be drained and spent fuel will be gradually moved from the pools into dry casks. Other tasks, like dismantling the plant and fully cleaning the site, will be put on hold.
Wolf said the state would keep the money for Pilgrim in escrow. If the cash isn’t needed, Entergy would ultimately get it back.
Wolf called the issue “nonpartisan,” when asked whether he thought the Baker administration would support his bills.
“I would call it the real cost of having that plant in our backyard,” he said.
Wolf’s proposals aren’t the only Pilgrim-related bills pending on Beacon Hill. State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, penned three of her own: The first would expand the plume exposure emergency planning zone around Pilgrim from its current 10-mile radius to 50.
“Realistically looking at the data from Fukushima, there’s a plume that extends at least that far,” Peake said. “Let’s deal with the situation as reality.”
Peake also hoped extending the zone, which places Boston in that primary emergency planning area, would expand the base of legislative support.
While Sheehan said Entergy would probably argue federal regulations that set the zone at 10 miles pre-empt state law, Peake disagreed.
“There is no pre-emption involved in the state legislature taking steps to protect the citizens of Massachusetts,” she said.
Peake’s second bill would direct the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to study preparedness for a radiological accident. Emergency planners would report findings and make recommendations by next January. The study would include an assessment of shelters in Barnstable County that would be suitable for a radiological emergency and the establishment of evacuation routes.
If the governor determines plans are inadequate to ensure public safety, he would notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency to withdraw the plans and call on the NRC to revoke the plant’s operating license.
Peake’s third bill would require Entergy to buy and maintain real time radiological monitors, expanding what’s currently in place around Pilgrim and Seabrook power plants. On the Cape, those monitors would be in the areas of Brewster and Truro.
“If the plant is running as smoothly as Entergy says, monitoring will show that,” Peake said. “If not, let’s have some early warning.”
Pilgrim maintains safe and secure operations and is prepared for contingencies, according to a statement emailed to the Times by Entergy spokeswoman Lauren Burm.
“We already have put programs and policies in place to cover all of these proposals but will take a close look at them and consider their merits,” she wrote in the statement. “The NRC and other governing agencies join us in assuring that the plant and its surrounding communities are safe and secure.”
Diane Turco, co-founder of the Cape Downwinders, said her group has already mobilized and plans a vigorous campaign to get the bills passed. “We’ll be going off-Cape to run an education campaign,” Turco said. “We’re meeting with activists all over the state to support these bills.”
Follow Christine Legere: @chrislegereCCT.