Conflict permeates Pilgrim Nuclear meeting
A meeting of the state panel on the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station became unusually volatile last night, as arguments broke out between the acting chair and others in the room.
The most notable agenda item was a visit by two officials from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the source of the conflict lay elsewhere.
One interaction began when a member of the panel, Henrietta Cosentino, wanted to read a statement that wasn’t on the agenda.
Vice chair Pine DuBois, acting as chair, would not allow it, so Cosentino went to the podium during the public comment period instead.
“You denied my comments, my reading of that letter, at least three times,” she began.
DuBois responded as Cosentino was talking, and members of the audience began to call out objections, making some of their comments difficult to distinguish.
“[Unintelligible] … the whole night this way if you want to — the whole night,” DuBois said emphatically.
“Excuse me,” Consentino replied. “Pine, this is out of order.”
Cosentino said she and some of the other members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel have repeatedly asked for topics to be placed on the agenda, without success.
The panel leadership hasn’t even acknowledged her emailed requests, she said.
“It's very disappointing that all efforts to influence or get an item on the agenda go virtually unacknowledged,” she said.
Later, members of the audience shouted in objection to the vice chair’s attempt to dismiss speakers from the podium without setting a uniform time limit, and before they had finished voicing their concerns.
“You’re supposed to represent us,” someone shouted from the audience. “Start doing it, because you haven’t let anybody talk all night.”
Panel member Jack Priest, who represents the Department of Public Health, suggested that in the future, members should have a formal opportunity to propose items for the agenda before each meeting.
During the public comments, Diane Turco, director of the local activist group Cape Downwinders, said her group is requesting that the panel advise Gov. Maura Healey to initiate an independent investigation into allegations against Pilgrim made public in an anonymous letter last month.
The letter disclosed that Pilgrim owner Holtec International had installed submerged heaters inside the reactor at Pilgrim.
CAI verified the installation of heaters by viewing a federal inspection report and speaking with a Holtec spokesman.
The heaters, when operating, will probably cause a slight increase in the release of radioactive tritium into the air, according to the federal report.
At yesterday’s meeting, Paul Krohn, a regional director of radiological safety for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the tritium released during the 91 days the heaters had been in operation was about 1.88 curies.
“When you do the division and the arithmetic, it's several million times below what you get, actually 12 million times below, what you get just being alive,” he said.
Art Desloges of the Massachusetts Sierra Club said even at small amounts, the community fears the release of tritium is a threat to public health, the environment, and the local economy.
“History is replete with instances when people were exposed to deadly materials that were mistakenly thought safe,” he said.
Desloges is running for state representative.
Holtec has previously said the submerged heaters were installed to allow use of underwater equipment in the winter and to raise the temperature in the building for employees’ comfort.