Lesley University intern, Nicole Cameron, writes about Pilgrim’s 2012 relicensing proceedings. Nicki is a 3rd year student at Lesley, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and will be focusing on the major milestones in Pilgrim’s operating life for the semester.  She hopes to become an environmental lawyer and plans to go to Law School once she graduates from Lesley. 

Last year, Entergy (the owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station) asked Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) for a 30-year license under the state waterways law to use tidelands along the Cape Cod Bay shoreline in front of Pilgrim. The license request was so they could install moorings and an outhaul system in Pilgrim’s intake embayment area as an emergency cooling water system. This system in supposed to help cool Pilgrim’s nuclear reactor and spent fuel pool in an emergency situation, and prevent a nuclear meltdown or spent fuel fire in the event of an unplanned power outage.

There are many questions about whether this emergency system will work if ever needed.  Entergy needs to implement this emergency “fix” for a back-up cooling water system in order to comply with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) order related to lessons learned from Fuskushima.  However, Entergy’s “fix” for Pilgrim is flawed. [1]

As proposed by Entergy, the use of the emergency cooling system will likely result in contaminated water discharging back out into the tidelands and Cape Cod Bay.  This is exactly what has been happening to the water along the Japanese coast since the Fukushima nuclear accident.

In its Feb. 2015 determination letter, MassDEP announced its intention to grant Entergy the license– despite the concerns of local residents about the project which were voiced at the MassDEP hearing last fall and in written public comments.  In March 2015, thirteen residents filed an appeal of MassDEP’s decision to grant the license. The issue is now pending.

MassDEP’s decision to grant Entergy the waterways license to use the Cape Cod Bay shoreline for this emergency fix is an infringement on public trust resources in Cape Cod Bay.  Under public trust law, regardless if shorefront is privately owned by Entergy the public still holds rights in the tidelands (i.e., the area between low and high water mark) and the natural resources within that area. So the public has legal rights to the tidelands where Entergy wants to put this project. Not only does the project infringe on these public rights, but Entergy’s daily operations do as well. Pollution problems caused by Pilgrim’s daily operations also interfere with public rights to natural resources.

The residents appeal of the MassDEP permit raises serious issues and implications for all residents and the natural resources of our Bay.

[1] Pilgrim Watch. July 2014. EA-12-049 Additional Mitigation for Beyond-Design-Bases External Event: PW’s Take. <http://www.capecodbaywatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Pilgrim-Watch-Doc.pdf>