BOSTON – With Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station now offline for good, Attorney General Maura Healey is worried there is not enough money to safely clean up the Plymouth plant site and renewing her call for federal regulators to hold a hearing on the proposed sale and decommissioning of the plant.
Since earlier this year, Healey and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have been arguing to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that current plant owner Entergy Corp. and proposed new owner Holtec International have not demonstrated that the plant's Decommissioning Trust Fund has a balance adequate to cover all the costs associated with decommissioning the plant and the long-term managing of spent fuel, which could lead to health and safety problems.
Pilgrim, which employed about 600 people and had been generating about 680 megawatts of electricity since coming online in 1972, permanently ceased operations on Friday.
On the radio last Thursday, Healey said she remains concerned that Holtec does not have appropriate experience to conduct the decommissioning and that there is not enough money in the decommissioning fund to ensure it is done safely and without leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.
"This is a matter of not just dollars and what the taxpayers may be left holding in terms of the bag and responsibility to foot the bill for cleanup, but it's public safety," Healey said on WGBH with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. She added, "We just need to demand that the NRC does its job and takes proper accounting of the situation here and funding is really important. I'm concerned that we don't have the adequate funding to get this done."
Entergy, which bought Pilgrim from Boston Edison in 1999, is seeking to sell the plant to Holtec, a company that says it specializes in "accelerated decommissioning" of power plants. The companies filed a joint license transfer application in November asking the NRC to approve the sale by the time the power plant closes by June 1. Each company has submitted its own decommissioning activities plan.
If the sale and license transfer applications are approved, Holtec plans to transfer fuel from Pilgrim between 2019 and 2021 and restore the site to meet NRC requirements by 2027. Activity would continue at the spent fuel storage installation until 2062 or 2063, and the Pilgrim site would be fully restored by 2064, according to the company's filings.
"This needs to be thoroughly looked at and vetted and what you don't want is, in an effort to save money, they have fewer workers on site, they have fewer safety checks happening," Healey said on WGBH.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Monday that the agency is still reviewing the application for the license transfer and the request for an adjudicatory hearing from Healey and the Baker administration. In February, the NRC said that the "adequacy of the decommissioning trust fund is one of the areas the staff is evaluating."