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00000177-ba84-d5f4-a5ff-bbfc9b930000A 3-part original reporting series.With the end of its 40-year license arriving in 2012, the owners of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth have applied for a 20-year extension. But opponents of the plant, including some local and state politicians, question the reactor's safety, especially after three sister reactors in Japan experienced explosions and likely meltdowns in the past year. Sean Corcoran reports.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to Close



The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth will shutdown no later than June 1, 2019, according to a statement this morning by its owner, Entergy Corp.

Update, 5pm:

Some 630 workers will be laid off, as the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant is shut down then decommissioned.  Plant officials say economic factors are forcing the  shut down.

Bill Mohl, Entergy’s wholesale commodities president, said low energy prices, reduced revenues and increased operational costs are to blame for the plant’s closing. He also said state energy policies ignore the benefits of nuclear power and make it impossible for plants like Pilgrim to compete.

"These types of energy policies, while perhaps attractive at first glance, simply undermine the very foundation of a competive market for existing generators by picking winners and losers," Mohl said. "In all of these cases, Pilgrim ends up on the losing end."

Mohl said they will lay off about half of their workforce when the plant closes. He says they will phase out workers throughout the decommissioning process, which could take years or even decades.

Meanwhile, it could take years to decommission the plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gives nuclear plants a 60-year window to decommission their facilities. Mohl said Entergy has to work with federal regulators and energy officials to settle on a shut-down date first.

"This is not happening overnight," Mohl said. "The company must decide whether to do the next refueling outage in the spring of 2017. We anticipate making that decision sometime in the first half of next year."

Entergy spent 70 million dollars to refuel the plant last spring. It will also cost millions to decommission the plant--estimates to decommission Vermont's Yankee Nuclear Plant were more than one billion dollars.

Reporting by Kathryn Eident

11 am, October 13:

The company said the shutdown results from poor market conditions, reduced revenues and increased marketing costs.

"The decision to close Pilgrim was incredibly difficult because of the effect on our employees and the communities in which they work and live," wrote Leo Denault, Entergy's chairman and chief executive officer, in a press release.


The plant employs about 650 people, most of them from the local area. It also provides the town of Plymouth with about $10 million annually in lieu of property taxes. 


During the past few year, Pilgrim has experienced numerous emergency shutdowns and equipment failures. In September, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission downgraded Pilgrim to one of its lowest performance categories, siting equipment failures. 


In its statement today, Entergy officials attributed the shutdown to several factors out of their control. They said that low energy prices driven by natural gas production has cut into Pilgrim's cash flow, generating an annual loss of more than $40 million in revenues for Pilgrim.


Entergy also has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment in recent years, but it faced even more costly upgrades as well as additional oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In its prepared statement, Entergy said it would cost between $45 million and $60 million in new operation and maintenance expenses. 


"While we will always make needed investments at any plant, we also take into account the effect on our stakeholders of operating over the long-term if it is not economically viable to do so," Entergy officials wrote.


Pilgrim generates 680 megawatts of electricity each year, enough to power between 550,000 and 600,000 homes. It first began generating electricity in 1972.