Saturday, April 07, 2012

Call to Action: Prevent the Re-licensing of Pilgrim!

I turned 65 today. That sounds very old but I feel much the same, except that I now qualify for Medicare, which is a big deal here in the United States. There's an article in the Cape Cod Times today that everyone who cares about Cape Cod should read. It is written by Patrick Cassidy. The article is entitled, "Citizens Group contests Pilgrim re-licensing." Normally I would draw conclusions and quote parts, but since it's my birthday, I am going to simply republish the whole thing and say I think we need to all stand up against the re-licensing of the Pilgrim nuclear plant. Its permit expires June 8. This plant is old and was built according to antiquated standards. It is a similar model to one that failed in Japan after the tsunami. Should Pilgrim leak or fail, Cape Cod would be doomed. If we do not take a stand, you can bet the permitting board will move ahead, without making any adjustments. Please especially take note of the suggestions from Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Senator Dan Wolf. I'm not sure what Congressman Keating's take on this is, but will find out next week. Here's Patrick Cassidy's article:

"A citizens group is mounting another in a series of challenges to the re-licensing of the 40-year-old Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.

In a letter sent this week to the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Kingston-based Jones River Watershed Association requested that the agency rescind its certification that Pilgrim's operations meet state standards for coastal areas.

'We're trying to make sure that our agencies do what they're supposed to do,' said Pine DuBois, the association's executive director.

In its April 4 letter, the association cites 10 areas where the plant's owner, Entergy Nuclear, has allegedly failed to act in ways consistent with the state's coastal policies.

These include failure to comply with its federal Clean Water Act pollutant discharge permit; the violation of a state moratorium on the taking of river herring; failure to address impacts on marine mammals and endangered species in Cape Cod Bay; and the discharge of radioactive tritium into groundwater that flows into the bay.

The 'once-through cooling system' at Pilgrim takes more than 500 million gallons of water from Cape Cod Bay daily, sucking in and killing fish, plankton, fish eggs and larvae, according to DuBois.

River herring and other fish species also are trapped against filters that suck water into the plant, a process known as impingement. River herring are currently being considered as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act.

'Pilgrim Station operates in accordance with both federal- and state-issued environmental permits,' Entergy spokeswoman Carol Wightman said. 'The NRC has performed a comprehensive biological assessment in connection with Pilgrim Station's application for a renewed license.'

The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management has reaffirmed its certification that Pilgrim is consistent with state coastal policies, NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said.

In a Feb. 29 letter to Entergy officials, Coastal Zone Management Project Review Coordinator Robert Boeri wrote that until the agency is notified of a change from a 2006 review of Entergy's license or a new license application is made, the certification remains valid.

The letter, however, left the door open for further review if there are any changes to the license or new information on the effects of the plant's operation on the coastal zone.

A spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which oversees the office of Coastal Zone Management, said the agency is reviewing the Jones River Watershed Association letter.

Entergy is seeking a 20-year extension of its license to operate Pilgrim. The plant's current license expires June 8, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to grant the extension.

The request from the Jones River Watershed Association is the latest attempt by grass-roots organizations, state lawmakers and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley to block the re-licensing effort.

On Thursday, Coakley's office filed an appeal challenging the NRC's license renewal process for Pilgrim in light of last year's earthquake- and tsunami-fueled nuclear disaster in Japan.

'We believe safe nuclear power can be a part of our energy portfolio, but the NRC needs to understand the lessons learned from Fukushima and apply those lessons to Pilgrim before granting the plant a 20-year license extension,' Coakley said.

State Sen. Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, said he supported Coakley's appeal.

'Lessons learned from Fukushima should be explored in an open, public process and applied to the Pilgrim re-licensing process, particularly in regards to on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel rods,' Wolf said.

Entergy is reviewing Coakley's appeal, Wightman said.

'Pilgrim Station has gone through an extensive, six-year technical and safety review as part of the NRC's license renewal process,' she said. 'We have completed all the NRC requirements in this process and we look forward to the commissioners' decision with regard to license renewal for Pilgrim.'"