Protesters demand closing now of Massachusetts' Pilgrim nuclear plant, not by 2019 as planned
By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press
October 22, 2015 - 6:55 pm EDT
BOSTON — Activists working to shut down the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station gathered at the Statehouse on Thursday to press for the immediate closure of the facility.
The protest comes after owners of the Plymouth facility, Entergy Corp., announced plans to close Massachusetts' only nuclear power plant by June 2019.
That's not soon enough for activists who have lobbied for years to close the plant.
When Entergy made its announcement, Diane Turco, executive director for Cape Downwinders, said the group cheered for "about 10 seconds until we heard 2019." She called it "nonsense."
"That is a narrative that we reject," she added. "The real narrative is that it will continue to operate a degraded and dangerous nuclear reactor until 2019 and that is unacceptable."
Mary Lampert, of the group Pilgrim Watch, also spoke at the protest. Lampert said she fears Entergy won't properly maintain a plant they are planning to shut down.
"We are clearly in the most dangerous period we have ever been in," Lampert said.
The group also delivered a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker's office calling on him to urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shutter the plant.
Entergy officials have said cutting safety corners isn't an option and plant's neighbors have no reason worry.
Last week's announcement that the plant would close by 2019 came about a month after federal inspectors downgraded the plant's safety rating to the lowest level and said they would increase oversight in the wake of a shutdown during a winter storm.
Entergy officials maintain that the plant remains safe, although it needed millions of dollars in upgrades. They also cited "poor market conditions, reduced revenues and increased operational costs" in their decision to close Pilgrim.
The 680-megawatt plant, which went online in 1972, was relicensed in 2012 for an additional 20 years. It employs more than 600 people.
The timing of the shutdown depends on several factors, including further discussion with ISO-New England, the operator of the region's power grid. It could shut down as early the spring of 2017 if it decides not to go through with a scheduled refueling.
Protesters said the plant should not undergo another refueling.
A spokesman for Entgery said Thursday that the company appreciates those who support the plant and respects the right of opponents to make their opinions known.
"Our focus is on operating the plant safely and reliably up to our planned shutdown, expected no later than June 1, 2019, and then continuing with all safety protocols through ultimate decommissioning," Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said in statement.
Baker has said the anticipated 2019 closure of Pilgrim gives the state time to make the transition to other energy sources — such as wind, solar, hydropower and natural gas. But he said safety is fundamental.
"In the end there's two pieces at play here," Baker told reporters Thursday. "One is the safety piece associated with shutting it down, and the other is making sure that we have enough power into the grid that we can support families in their homes and businesses throughout whatever the rest of the shelf life is for Pilgrim."