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State hearing will evaluate Pilgrim Nuclear plan to discharge radioactive wastewater

Courtesy of Entergy

The state has scheduled a public hearing before it finalizes a decision on the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s plan to discharge radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

Local activists have been waiting for the Department of Environmental Protection to commit to a hearing since the agency issued a draft denial, last month, of a permit modification it says Pilgrim would need to release the water.

Holtec, which owns and is decommissioning the closed nuclear plant, is seeking permission to discharge more than a million gallons of water, including water from the pool used to cool spent nuclear fuel.

DEP will conduct the Aug. 24 hearing, which starts at 6 p.m. in the Great Hall at Plymouth Town Hall.

To estimate the number of people who would like to speak, DEP is asking attendees to fill out a voluntary pre-registration form online.

Pine DuBois, vice chair of a state’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, said she expects to see high interest, as residents express their concerns.

“That includes unknown impacts from a level of tritium that can't be removed from the water and whatever heavy metals that may also contain any amount of radioactive isotopes,” she said. “I assume the fishermen will be there, and the people that are concerned about perception will talk about that. So I expect there to be a crowd, certainly.”

Although the water contains radioactive material, the permit governs only non-radiological contaminants.

DEP's draft denial of the permit modification relies mainly on the state Ocean Sanctuaries Act, which prohibits the dumping of industrial waste into a designated ocean sanctuary, including Cape Cod Bay.

The water would be treated before release, and the level of radiation would meet the federal limit, Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien said.

“It's up to [a] 3 millirem dose to the public annually,” he told CAI in April. “Our radiological releases have been fractions of a millirem annually, so we would be well within compliance of our current technical specifications for discharge.”

Now that the hearing has been announced, opponents are working to coordinate their testimony, said longtime Pilgrim activist Mary Lampert.

“Emails have been flying around today,” she said.

The state has also extended the public comment period on the permit through Aug. 31 at 5 p.m., one week after the hearing.

DEP has asked that written comments be submitted by email if possible, to massdep.npdes@mass.gov, with the subject line “Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.”

If email is not possible, comments can be mailed to Cathy Coniaris, MassDEP, 100 Cambridge St., Boston, MA 02114.

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.