© 2024
Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Opponents pack Pilgrim Nuclear meeting as potential discharge of radioactive water looms

Members of the public hold signs in opposition to Holtec's effort to modify its permit to allow discharge of radioactive water as a means of disposal of materials from the closed Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
Jennette Barnes
Members of the public hold signs in opposition to Holtec's effort to modify its permit to allow discharge of radioactive water as a means of disposal of materials from the closed Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

Opponents of the proposed discharge of radioactive water from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station packed a meeting on the future of the station last night.

Ryan Collins of Bourne received a standing ovation from the audience when he presented a thick binder of signatures from his Change.org petition. The petition calls for a stop to the discharge plan. It garnered more than 200,000 signatures.

The state's Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel hosted the meeting at Plymouth Town Hall as part of its regular calendar.

In his remarks to the panel, which includes representatives from Pilgrim owner Holtec, Collins asked Holtec CEO Krishna Singh to live up to the description of Holtec on its website as ”a learning organization, forever striving for a higher standard of excellence.”

“Right now is a wonderful opportunity for you to demonstrate this higher standard of excellence by acquiescing to our collective wishes as a community in agreeing to no longer consider dumping this water into our beloved Cape Cod Bay,” Collins said.

Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien previously said in response to the petition that the company is following a process allowed by the federal government to consider water discharge as an option for disposal.

Holtec compliance manager David Noyes, a member of the panel, said last night that the company plans to file an application by the end of the week for modification of a federal permit that could allow the discharge.

But opponents argue that the terms of a state settlement with Holtec would make a release of contaminated water illegal, with or without a permit.

Many members of the audience held orange signs that read, “Protect our bays! No permit!” in reference to the proposed modification of Holtec’s permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Jo-Anne Wilson-Keenan, of East Dennis, said she’s concerned about contamination. Speaking from the podium, she raised her arm to show the shape of Cape Cod and the location of Dennis.

“We live right here in the elbow, and when the radioactive water comes down from Plymouth, it’s going to land right on our beaches,” she said.

Jim Cantwell, state director for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, discussed Markey’s March 17 letter to Holtec asking the company to use the ratepayer-funded decommissioning trust fund to pay for an independent scientific study of the risks of discharging the radioactive water stored at Pilgrim.

Last May, at a field hearing hosted by Markey in Plymouth, Singh agreed to allow independent testing.

Meanwhile, state-supervised testing of the Pilgrim water is set to begin with a collection of samples on April 5. Senior staff from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Public Health are scheduled to observe, along with a representative of the town of Plymouth.

But Seth Pickering, a deputy regional director with DEP, said the state no longer plans to use the previously identified Colorado lab, Eurofins, to test for non-radioactive pollutants.

The agency will instead rely on Gel Laboratories of South Carolina, which Pickering disclosed is a lab Holtec uses as well.

Members of the audience objected to the idea of using the same lab as Holtec, but Pickering said the state needed a lab that could test for both nuclear and non-nuclear contaminants.

“As we were trying to contract with laboratories around the country, it was impossible to find another lab that would do not only the metal work but the radiological work,” he said. “And so we had to go with this laboratory.”

He said the state needed an alternative “due to contractual limitations with its existing laboratory.”

Also at last night’s meeting, state Rep. Mathew Muratore (R-Plymouth) said he and Rep. Kathleen LaNatra (D-Kingston) plan to change and re-file legislation they previously proposed to make changes to the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

He said reducing citizen representation on the panel, which the previous bill would have done, was not their intent, and they are working with the group Save Our Bay to rewrite the bill.

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.