The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was back in Plymouth last night to discuss Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, this time in the town-owned historic Memorial Hall. The agency was in Plymouth just seven weeks ago, at the request of Massachusetts’ elected officials, to discuss publically the alarming contents of an internal memo that was accidentally made public at the end of 2016.
This time, the purpose of the hearing was two-fold: 1) to discuss the NRC’s assessment of Pilgrim’s 2016 safety performance with Pilgrim’s owner, Entergy, in a public forum, and 2) to present preliminary findings from the special inspections (also known as the 95003 inspections) that took place this past December and January. These special inspections were the result of Pilgrim’s downgrade to one of the two worst performing plants in the nation.
The gist of the discussion: According to the NRC, Entergy showed some improvements in 2016 but not enough to move out of Column 4 (one-step away from mandatory shutdown). There were still issues with safety culture that allowed problems to persist. Despite this, NRC determined that Pilgrim operated “safely” in 2016 and will not be downgraded to Column 5. Moving to Column 5 would mean mandatory shutdown. Enhanced oversight by the NRC will continue in 2017 and another resident inspector has been added at the plant.
As for the 95003 special inspections (which only reviewed about 15% of Pilgrim’s systems), Entergy showed “some improvement” but racked up another 11 violations of regulatory requirements, in addition to 2 violations discovered by Entergy. The final report will be issued in 45 days.
The meeting was opened up to the public after the NRC’s discussions. Typical of these NRC hearings is for Pilgrim proponents and opponents alike to take to the mic to air grievances or to speak in favor of the plant. In years past, it has been like pulling teeth to get most elected officials to even attend the meetings. But not last night. Almost every elected official (or a representative from their office) — Attorney General Healey, Senators Markey and Warren, Congressman Keating, and a long list of legislators from throughout southeast Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands — were present.
At this meeting, it was our elected officials’ time to shine.
Senator Warren’s Office: “…bring Pilgrim fully into compliance or shut it down”
Rep. Peake: “Because of our concerns on past performance and our ongoing concerns stemming from your report, we ask that [Pilgrim] not be refueled this spring and that the orderly shutdown of this plant begin immediately.”
Rep. Hunt: “I am not a nuclear engineer, but I was an auditor for many years and I have a very sensitive BS meter. Tonight, it went off many times.”
Senator Cyr: …” in the best interests of public safety, I unequivocally call for [Pilgrim] to be shut down immediately. That means now, that means today.”
The verbal and written statements from elected officials go on, from MA Reps. Tim Whelan, Will Crocker, David Vieira, Dylan Fernandes, James Cantwell, MA Senator DiMacedo, Senator Markey, Congressman Keating, Attorney General Healey, Plymouth Selectman Ken Tavares, and more.
We thank them all immensely for standing up for their constituents so strongly and vocally. Even if the NRC doesn’t listen, it’s still critical that our elected officials state their dissatisfaction with Entergy and the NRC loud and clear.
Media coverage about the hearing (March 21-22, 2017):
Cape Cod Times (3/21): Pilgrim far from forced shutdown, NRC administrator says →
Wicked Local Marshfield (3/22): NRC inspection reveals myriad problems at plant →
Wicked Local Carver (3/22): Lawmakers in Pilgrim zone urge NRC to shut nuke plant down →
Wicked Local Plymouth (3/22): NRC gives Entergy green light to continue, despite protests →
The Enterprise (3/22): Crowd tells nuclear agency to shut down Plymouth plant →