Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Enters Final Week | WCAI

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Enters Final Week

May 28, 2019

Entergy employees perform a mock shutdown of the Pilgrim reactor on May 28, 2019.
Credit Sarah Mizes-Tan / WCAI

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will close at the end of this week, and its closing will mark the end of an era for many employees and nuclear watchdogs. The plant has been continuously running since the late 1980s, and was first built nearly 50 years ago, in 1972.

Its final day, Friday May 31st, is predicted to be a quiet one - the plant has been only 40% operational since the beginning of May, after equipment malfunctions, and because the day marks the last day of employment for about half of the plant's nearly 600-person staff, the company will be keeping fanfare to a minimum. Watchdogs like Mary Lampert have said they won't be present to celebrate at the gates out of respect for employees as well. 

"It is an emotional time, it’s sad to see a lot of these people either retiring, changing careers, these are your friends and family basically, you spend more time at work than with your family when things are going on at the plant," Entergy spokesman Pat O'Brien said.

The actual shutting down of the plant's reactor will take 5 hours at an undisclosed period of time on Friday. It will involve placing control rods, essentially a cross-shaped structure made of boron, in between the generator's nuclear fuel rods to stop nuclear reactions from happening. Over the course of the following ten days, the reactor will be defueled as the rods are moved into a cooling pool, and eventually into dry cask storage.

As the plant decommissions, there are many issues on the horizon - for one, Entergy is looking to sell the plant to another company, Holtec, to decommission it. That transaction is yet to be approved by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. There is also no official final resting spot for the spent nuclear fuel rods, which could potentially sit on the edge of Cape Cod Bay for decades. Lastly, watchdogs like Mary Lampert will still be keeping a close eye on the plant as the hundreds of fuel rods are moved into dry cask storage, a process that will take a little under a year.