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With Nowhere to Go, Radioactive Material Will Stay at Pilgrim for Years to Come

Members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens' Advisory Panel and guests met on March 29, 2021.
Jennette Barnes
Members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens' Advisory Panel and guests met on March 29, 2021.

The company decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station plans to store spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico. But events on Monday revealed that the timeline for Holtec moving the fuel is years down the road — if ever.

John McKirgan, of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, chief of the branch that handles licensing for storage and transportation, told Massachusetts’ state panel monitoring Pilgrim that his agency has more questions for Holtec about the storage facility, which has not yet been built.

Those questions will delay a review of the New Mexico storage plan, he said. Prior to the delay, the facility could have opened in 2024 at the earliest.

Concerned Duxbury resident Jim Lampert told the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens’ Advisory Panel that the upshot is, the community will be living with Pilgrim for years to come.

“One thing that I think is becoming clear tonight is that, with or without interim storage, spent fuel at Pilgrim is going to be here for a long, long time,” he said.

The New Mexico site and others like it are termed “interim” storage because the federal government had a plan to move nuclear waste to a long-term underground repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain — a controversial project that has been stalled for years.

At Monday’s meeting, held over Zoom, New Mexico resident Leona Morgan told the panel her community doesn’t want to be a dumping ground for Massachusetts.

“This is one of the most blatant forms of environmental racism that will be on your hands as community members,” she said. “You all benefited from the electricity.”

Earlier the same day, the Associated Press reported that New Mexico is suing the NRC over the Holtec facility, saying it would endanger residents, the environment, and the economy.

Parts from the Pilgrim reactor, which are considered less dangerous than the spent fuel rods, are being shipped to Texas for disposal.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.