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All of Pilgrim's spent nuclear fuel now in storage; critic says record-setting speed was about money

Storage casks for spent nuclear fuel at the Pilgrim Power Station
Storage casks for spent nuclear fuel at the Pilgrim Power Station

The last of the spent nuclear fuel from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has been removed from the cooling pool and placed into dry storage on the grounds of the closed Plymouth plant.

The company decommissioning the plant, Holtec, said it finished on Dec. 13 placing the fuel assemblies into 62 concrete casks. Each weighs 150 tons.

The company issued a news release saying it set a new world record for the fastest transfer of fuel to on-site storage.

Diane Turco, director of the concerned residents’ group Cape Downwinders, questioned the value of such a record. She said Holtec put money above safety.

Holtec will pay less to the state for emergency planning and environmental monitoring now that the fuel is in dry storage.

To complete the transfer of fuel quickly, the company designed and built a device to retrieve a damaged fuel assembly that had been lodged in place since the 1970s, according to the news release. That device is now available to any nuclear plant facing the same problem, Holtec said.

Federal law calls for nuclear waste to be stored at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but the facility remains highly contested and is not operational.

The radioactive waste from Pilgrim will remain in Plymouth indefinitely.

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.