March 29, 2015
Original (with comments) at BostonGlobe.com
Anna Linakis Baker
Marshfield, co-founder of the Pilgrim Coalition, a group working to raise awareness about Pilgrim’s impact on public health and safety.
You don’t have to be “anti-nuclear” to recognize that Pilgrim poses a significant threat to Massachusetts. Pilgrim is one of five nuclear reactors in the country under special regulatory oversight because of its safety violations, and earned infamy as number one for unplanned shutdowns in 2013. It was originally licensed to hold 880 spent fuel assemblies and currently has more than 3,000. Pilgrim’s 40-year license to operate expired in 2012 and was renewed for another 20 years. Its troubling track record portends increased risk over time. As nuclear expert Arnie Gunderson says, “This is a technology that can have 40 good years and one bad day.” Consider:
• The Pilgrim plant has a 10-mile evacuation zone. After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, our government recommended Americans evacuate within 50 miles. Boston is 35 miles from Pilgrim.
• Pilgrim is the same design as Fukushima, and has more than double the fuel in its “spent fuel pool.”
• We do not need a tsunami or an earthquake to cause a meltdown. Losing electricity for cooling the pools, human error, or an ill-intending individual could all cause great damage.
• The Massachusetts attorney general estimated a fire in Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool would cause up to $488 billion in damages and 24,000 latent cancers.
• Entergy, Pilgrim’s owner, is building a nuclear waste site in Plymouth as a repository for the used fuel previously destined for Yucca Mountain. Nuclear waste is highly radioactive and lasts thousands of years.
• Accidents are not the only risk. Pilgrim releases radiation into the ground water. The “footprints” of radiation-linked disease are documented in surrounding communities.
• Pilgrim’s license was renewed even though its EPA water discharge permit had expired nearly 20 years before.
Pilgrim is arguably the Commonwealth’s biggest threat. Given daily radiation discharge into Cape Cod Bay and local communities, and the risk of having to evacuate the region for centuries, it should be retired. It seems Entergy is willing to tout its energy at any cost to protect its bottom line. The “real” cost of Pilgrim’s energy reaches beyond the dollar, and devalues our health and lives.
Plymouth resident and member of the town’s Nuclear Matters Committee.
To shut the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station after 42 years of safely supplying clean power to the region is a ludicrous idea. The plant not only provides low-cost electricity to its customers, it also supports the community with 600 high-quality jobs, a payroll of $55 million, and substantial tax payments. Just from an economic view alone, closing the plant would be a severe blow to the immediate area and a hit to the state’s economy.
The need for Pilgrim’s 680 megawatts of power is more critical than ever. The increased demand for natural gas for both home heating and electric power generation has contributed to the recent spike in the NStar power charge for electricity. This on top of the recent shutdown of the Salem coal and Vermont Yankee nuclear plants have put substantial pressure on the demand for natural gas, assuring increased prices. This is only going to get worse with the planned retirement of additional oil and coal-fired plants, which includes the nearby soon-to-be-closed coal-fired Brayton Point plant.
We have little to be proud about in Massachusetts when it comes to climate change, with Pilgrim being the lone bright spot. Massachusetts can only supply roughly 85 percent of its power needs, and about 71 percent of that electricity comes from coal, oil, or gas. Will there magically arise a non-carbon emitting source to replace Pilgrim? No; we will simply burn more fossil fuels, with their effluents left for our grandchildren.
The Pilgrim plant has served Massachusetts well, operating at greater than 90 percent capacity, an exceptional rate. Wind energy averages about 30 percent, and solar is even lower. Thus another loss with the closure of Pilgrim would be the tremendous reliability in electricity supply it provides.
Finally, there is no question about Pilgrim’s commitment to the highest safety standards, as can be seen in reports from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. To shut Pilgrim would be folly, and rather than increase public safety, it would jeopardize it with higher-priced power, lower reliability of supply, and socio-economic losses as we already see where the mills, shoes, and fishing industries have been lost.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at email@example.com.