From Cape Cod Times

Posted Feb 2, 2017 at 10:20 PM
Updated Feb 2, 2017 at 10:20 PM

By Christine Legere

Read original article (with highlights video) >>

PLYMOUTH – Tuesday’s tense meeting between federal regulators and the public was arranged to allay concern over a mistakenly released in-house email characterizing the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station as poorly run, but the session instead fueled outrage among some critics who hoped to be told the plant was going to be ordered shut down.

Fallout continued Thursday.

“Feelings range from deep despair to motivation to activate,” said Diane Turco, director of the Cape Downwinders. “We are still keeping pressure on the Governor and legislators to call for immediate closure.”

Turco said the public is aware of the “serious threat” the plant poses, “and we will not give up until the plug is pulled.”

Plant opponents are feeling the pressure of a fast-approaching refueling at Pilgrim, expected to take place in April and required if the reactor is to continue to run for another two years. Since the procedure will cost Entergy Corp., Pilgrim’s owner-operator, over $50 million, it is unlikely the company would then willingly stop power production sooner than its announced permanent closure in mid-2019.

Watchdogs believed the recently-conducted special inspection at Pilgrim might prompt the NRC to delay the plant’s refueling at least until inspection results are released sometime in May or June.

The NRC said Tuesday it would allow Pilgrim to refuel as planned in April – an announcement Turco characterized as a “slap in the face to the hundreds of citizens at the meeting who were standing up to their right to safety.”

Karen Vale, program manager for Cape Cod Bay Watch, called the announced refueling “incredibly disappointing.”

NRC officials on Tuesday also told the large crowd that the 10 to 15 infractions found wouldn’t be enough for the agency to shut Pilgrim down.

“People wanted the NRC to do the right thing, but it was clear that before they spoke to the Legislature Monday and before they spoke to the public Tuesday that they were going to leave Pilgrim in Column 4 and not put it in Column 5,” Pilgrim Watch Director Mary Lampert said.

The NRC uses a set of standards to evaluate nuclear plant performance. Column 4 is the lowest category a plant can be placed in and continue to operate. Plants in Column 5 are shut down until they are judged fit to operate.

Pilgrim had been in Column 4 since September 2015.

Photo Gallery: Nuclear officials’ meeting

Before Tuesday’s public forum, federal regulators held closed meetings with Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the southeast region’s legislative delegation.

Assistant Attorney General Seth Schofield, representing Healey, urged the NRC at Tuesday’s meeting to expand federal oversight of the Pilgrim plant, expedite production of the inspection report and “supply clear and timely information to the public on what action Entergy needs to take to operate safely.”

Before Tuesday’s public forum, federal regulators held closed meetings with Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the southeast region’s legislative delegation.

Assistant Attorney General Seth Schofield, representing Healey, urged the NRC at Tuesday’s meeting to expand federal oversight of the Pilgrim plant, expedite production of the inspection report and “supply clear and timely information to the public on what action Entergy needs to take to operate safely.”

Not enough, Turco said. “The NRC has been increasing oversight at Pilgrim since 2013, and it hasn’t been working,” she said. “With our elected officials, we have expectations that they will promote public safety. They need to stand up and call on the NRC to shut Pilgrim down.”

The region’s legislative delegation had attended Tuesday’s forum but refrained from comment to give the public more time to speak.

State Sen. Viriato (Vinny) deMacedo, R-Plymouth, said he and fellow legislators spent three hours grilling federal regulators during a private meeting at the Statehouse Monday.

“None of us are nuclear engineers,” deMacedo said. “We let them know we are very concerned.”

“We are trying to put as much pressure on the NRC as we can for oversight to make sure the plant is safe, and if it’s not, to let it close,” the senator said.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, said he and state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, have made it no secret they want Pilgrim immediately shut down, as do their Cape constituents, but not all elected officials in the southeast region agree on that point.

What they do agree on, however, is the plant needs to operate safely while it remains online and to decommission safely once it permanently shuts down, he said.

Early last month, a letter outlining a long list of concerns and calling for the meeting that took place Tuesday went out to the NRC, bearing the signatures of Gov. Baker, Healey, and the region’s entire legislative delegation along with many U.S. legislators.

“I think us speaking with one voice is powerful and may be the most effective tool in getting Entergy to close the plant and proceed to safe decommissioning,” Cyr said.

Healey had been the driving force behind the letter to the NRC. “Tuesday’s hearing provided the public with a forum to voice their concerns about the safety of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant and the risks it poses to residents, workers, and the environment,” said Chloe Gotsis, Healey’s deputy press secretary. “Our office will closely review the final inspection report in hopes that it will provide us with a complete understanding of the current issues at the plant and whether we can ensure that residents and workers are safe.”

– Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.