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Nuclear Panel Says 'Logjam' Is Baked Into Their Voting Rules

Sarah Mizes-Tan
The reactor room at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. Image from 2019.

The public panel overseeing the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is asking lawmakers to change the panel’s voting rules.

Members of the 21-seat Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel said it’s been hard to get anything done, because the law requires them to have 11 votes to pass a motion, no matter how many people are present.

At the group’s regular meeting on Monday, member David O’Reilly made a motion to ask state legislators to introduce a bill that would allow the panel to pass items by a majority of the members in attendance. 

“I just want to try to break this logjam so we can have a vote on something that means something,” said O’Reilly, who was appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

The motion passed with the minimum 11 votes.

Mary Waldron, another member, who is the executive director of the Old Colony Planning Council, said she’s been on many boards, but none more frustrating than the nuclear decommissioning panel.

A few motions failed at Monday’s meeting.

One would have asked the state to remove the voting rights of the two members who represent the nuclear station.

Another failed motion would have demanded that plant owner Holtec produce the warranty information on the spent fuel casks within 30 days, or else the board would formally seek help from the state attorney general.

“Holtec is both the chicken and the fox. … You have the coop as well as the opportunity for a problem,” said member Sean Mullin, who made the motion. Mullin is an appointee of the Senate minority leader.

Patrick O’Brien, who represents Holtec, said he asked for the warranty information from the company’s legal counsel but did not have an answer.

The panel has been talking about the issue for years, Mullin said. But his motion failed, with nine in favor, three opposed, and six abstaining.

Meanwhile, Holtec has submitted an initial site assessment to the state.

The document includes a proposed list of contaminants to be monitored at the site and describes how Holtec will demonstrate compliance with radiological cleanup standards.

Paul Locke, assistant commissioner for the state’s waste site cleanup program, said the state is looking for various contaminants — not just radioactive material.

“We're particularly interested in the site assessment that is being conducted and the discovery of any oil [or] hazardous materials that may have been released to the environment at this site,” he said.

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station closed in May of 2019.

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.