2016 marked an increase in protests against Pilgrim Nuclaer PowerStation's operation, including the recent gathering at the gates of the plant on Rocky Hill Road that followed the leak of an NRC inspector's email.
By Frank Mandfmand@wickedlocal.com
PLYMOUTH - 2016 marked an increase in protests against Pilgrim Nuclaer Power Station's operation, including the recent gathering at the gates of the plant on Rocky Hill Road that followed the leak of an NRC inspector's email
The Cape Downwinders have called this final period of the plant's operation "the most dangerous time," suggesting that with the pending closure plant-owner Entergy Corp. would not spend the money it takes to maintain the plants complex systems or retain its most-experienced employees.
Entergy officials bristle at that suggestion, insisting that safety has always been their top priority and pointing to measures that they have already undertaken and employee contracts that they have recently settled which should ensure the safe operation of the plant until they turn in the key in 2019.
Shortly before the announcement of the closure date last year the town received its first assessment of the post-Pilgrim reality from the UMass-Amherst based Institute for Nuclear Host Communities and, less than a month after that Director of Planning Lee Hartmann attended a conference in Amherst that brought together a large percentage of the leaders of those host communities.
That's one of the issues. There have been to date, less than a dozen communities that have gone through the nuclear plant decommissioning process, which means both that data is limited but also that what there is could be invaluable to the town and region in planning for a Post-Pilgrim Plymouth.
In 2016 a new town committee, the Entergy Working Group, began working seriously on that plan.
But just as the Entergy Working Group began to define post-Pilgrim needs the state announced that it would step into the picture.
The state has established a 20-member Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel comprised of state administrators and more than a dozen other panel members to be selected by elected state officials. Plymouth will be able to choose four of the 20 panelists, though there is hope that other appointments will look first to this economic region.
Pilgrim remains in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's doghouse, due to past issues, and during recent additional mandatory inspections an email from an NRC inspector was inadvertently sent to a leader of the Cape Downwinders. That email painted a bleak portrait of plant operations, but within a week of its release the NRC publicly asserted that the plant was operating safely.
One interesting new element is the possibility that electricity from Maine and Atlantic Canada could be sent to Massachusetts through underwater cables, which could come ashore in Plymouth, potentially utilizing some of the electrical infrastructure already in place at Pilgrim.
A state request for proposal process with the goal of importing alternative energy from out of state will be released next April, and among more than a dozen projects under consideration are two that have Plymouth in mind.
If that happens the town would likely realize $1 to $2 million or more in annual fees, a far cry from the $9+ million it receives today in PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) payments from Pilgrim, but a good step in the direction of offsetting that loss of revenue.
Regardless of whether Plymouth is the destination of an undersea electrical cable, it's no secret that the town is eyeing the 1,500 acre buffer that surrounds the plant as a possible location for an industrial park.
And environmentalists see those same acres in terms of the town's ecosystem, connecting the ocean to the wetlands of Tidmarsh Farms, to the highlands of the Pine Hills and then west, along the Eel River all the way to Myles Standish State Forest.
And then there's The Pinehills. Management of the community development would also like to see the corpse of the plant buried so they could make an offer on those same acres and extend housing in their popular retirement community from the highway to the ocean.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.