By Erica Moser
State House News Service
Posted Oct. 22, 2015 at 5:12 PMUpdated at 10:34 PM
BOSTON -- Cape Cod activists and students, environmentalists, and state legislators gathered at the State House on Thursday and called for the immediate shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
Entergy announced on Oct. 13 that Pilgrim will close by June 2019, due to low energy prices and declining revenue. But as the activists gathered advertised with their highlighter-yellow t-shirts, they want to shut down Pilgrim now.
"We cheered for about 10 seconds until we heard 2019, and that is not a closing," said Diane Turco, executive director of Cape Downwinders, a cooperative aiming to protect against safety
hazards resulting from the use of nuclear energy at Pilgrim.
"That is nonsense, and that is a narrative we reject."
Bookended by Anne Goodwin's singing of her folksy song "Downwind Uprising" and a march to Gov. Charlie Baker's office, activists shared safety concerns, environmental worries and stories.
Kahla Jussell, a senior at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, spoke of the envelope taped to her family's medicine cabinet door with instructions in big red letters, "In case of nuclear meltdown, please give the girls a pill from this envelope."
Claire Miller of the Toxics Action Center recalled going to school in the Midwest and thinking a "nuclear meltdown" was happening when she heard a tornado siren.
Several people advocated for Hyannis Sen. Dan Wolf's bill that provides funds for post-closure activities at nuclear power stations.
"Senator Wolf's bills will spare taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in decommissioning costs, for which Entergy should be paying," said Bruce Skud, cofounder of No More Fukushimas.
Wolf spoke at the event, emphasizing that Entergy is "protecting the risks of their shareholders and putting that ahead of the safety of the citizens in the shadow of the plant."
Turco agreed, saying Cape Downwinders and fellow activists are "now in a critical battle between money and profit over safety."
In September, the NRC designated Pilgrim one of the three least-safe reactors in the country.
Following the speakout to shut Pilgrim now, Entergy released a statement: "We appreciate those who support the plant and respect the right of plant 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."
Mary Lambert, director of Pilgrim Watch, is skeptical.
"Entergy said they're losing thirty to sixty million dollars a year," she said, "so anyone is crazy who believes Entergy is going to spend a dime between now and whenever they shut down to do what is required."
The anti-Pilgrim activists received support from anti-Seabrook Station advocates, such as Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives.
"I stand with you to say no more unsafe nuclear energy, where residents assume all of the risks," she said. "We can do better."
Others expressed concern not only with safety, but also with environmental impact.
Robert Cunningham, president of the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, cited a study from the association asserting that ""Pilgrim is causing environmental impacts nearby and in Cape Cod Bay, namely: release of radioactive materials, including releases of tritium into groundwater that exceed drinking water standards."
The study said that "the once-through seawater intake system used to cool Pilgrim's nuclear reactor negatively impacts 91 species of marine and diadromous fish through entrainment and impingement. Each year millions to billions of fish eggs and larvae are entrained and thousands of fish are trapped (impinged) on the intake screens."
Emily Norton, Massachusetts director for The Sierra Club, advocated for replacing the lost energy not with natural gas, but with wind and solar power.
"As with so many issues the challenges here are not technical," she added. "What we do not have and what we need is the political will."
After more than a dozen speakers, the activists marched to Baker's office to deliver a letter calling on the NRC to shutter the plant immediately.