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Plymouth nuclear plant won't dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay in 2022, Holtec says

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Inside Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

The company decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station pledged Monday not to discharge radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay in 2022.

The move followed media reports that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in an email to Congressman Bill Keating’s office, said the company planned to dump contaminated water from the nuclear plant into the bay during the first three months of next year.

That’s not going to happen in 2022, Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien told CAI in an interview. But the company hasn’t committed to keep the radiation-exposed water out of the bay altogether.

“In the near term, … processed water will remain on site,” he said. “We're going to safely store [the water] in some storage areas that we have.”

During the coming year, Holtec will evaluate how to get rid of the water, he said.

CAI reported on Nov. 23 that Holtec was considering discharging 1 million gallons of radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

Then, in a Dec. 1 email to Congressman Bill Keating’s staff, first revealed by The Cape Cod Times, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission congressional affairs office said Holtec planned “to discharge liquid effluents sometime in the first quarter of 2022.”

Asked if the NRC email was mistaken, O’Brien told CAI, “They may have been conveying that we said to the NRC we could be ready to [remove the water], but we did not have a final decision on how we would dispose of the water.”

The federal government, not the state, has authority over the disposal of radioactive material from the Plymouth plant, which closed in May of 2019.

O’Brien is manager of government affairs and communications for Comprehensive Decommissioning International, a decommissioning general contractor jointly owned by Holtec and SNC-Lavalin. He represents Holtec on the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens’ Advisory Panel, or NDCAP, the state panel monitoring activity at Pilgrim.

Local activists are planning a demonstration and speaking program outside Plymouth Town Hall immediately preceding the next NDCAP meeting on Jan. 24.

Diane Turco, director of the residents’ group Cape Downwinders, said legislators and the general public are invited.

"What we’d like to do is gather at 5:30 and have a speakout, where we can have people come and say what they think should happen, share their feelings, and express their concern about saving and protecting our bay," she said.

She said activists will call for an environmentally safe plan for the disposal of water from the nuclear plant that does not include discharge into the bay.

Follow-up reporting: 'Confusion' led to false impression Holtec would dump radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay by April, NRC says

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.