Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass. has been releasing radioactive materials and other contaminants deliberately and accidentally into groundwater, surface water, and soils since it began generating electricity in 1972. Leaks of tritium have been documented since voluntary monitoring began in 2007 and leaks are still ongoing today.
A new draft report, Entergy’s Legacy of Contamination at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, issued by the Jones River Watershed Association’s (JRWA) Cape Cod Bay Watch program summarizes decades of radiological contamination at Pilgrim and provides a foundation for understanding cleanup needs after shutdown.
Much of the information comes from Pilgrim’s own reports, which show excessive amounts of lethal radionuclides, including tritium, manganese-54, cesium-137, and cobalt-60 in groundwater and soils.
Pilgrim is scheduled to refuel in spring 2017 and shut down no later than May 31, 2019; however, refueling should not happen and cleanup not be postponed. Decades could pass before the pollution is addressed, allowing time for contamination to migrate to Cape Cod Bay and for climate change and sea level rise impacts to create more challenges for cleanup at the seaside location. Furthermore, Pilgrim’s dry cask storage facility, where highly toxic nuclear waste will be stored indefinitely on site, has been built close to the shoreline, within reach of rising tides, coastal storms, and saltwater degradation. This creates a potential source of further radioactive waste contamination, long after Pilgrim shuts down.
With closure imminent, it is more important than ever to understand the extent of Pilgrim’s environmental contamination. The legacy that Pilgrim will leave behind is one of stranded nuclear waste and radioactive contamination. It is critical that regulators and our elected officials ensure transparency and public participation in all phases of environmental cleanup at Pilgrim, ensure that decontamination is not postponed, and that nuclear waste storage is moved farther away from the shoreline.
Note that the report is in draft form. This post has been updated with Draft 2, Feb. 2017 version. We welcome any feedback you might have; comments can be directed to email@example.com.