Patrick Pledges To Write To Regulators About Nuclear Plant

BOSTON — It was three years ago Tuesday that nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, were hit by a huge tsunami and started melting down.

The reactors at Fukushima are the same type as the one at the only nuclear power station in Massachusetts. On this anniversary, Gov. Deval Patrick is taking up the cause of activists who want the Pilgrim reactor in Plymouth shut down.

The governor agreed to get involved after a State House demonstration and sit-in at his office.

At The Rally

At the State House rally, Diane Turco read the names of all 15 towns on Cape Cod.

Protestors gather in the lobby of Gov. Deval Patrick's office Monday afternoon. (Bruce Gellerman/WBUR)

Protestors gather in the lobby of Gov. Deval Patrick’s office Monday afternoon. (Bruce Gellerman/WBUR)

Turco is co-founder of Cape Downwinders, an organization that’s been fighting for years to shut down the Pilgrim nuclear plant.

Representatives from each town on the Cape attended the rally, carrying with them the certified results from last November’s question posed at a town meeting. Turco said the nonbinding petition passed unanimously.

“The petition question called on Gov. Patrick to request that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uphold their mandate for public safety by closing the Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Plymouth because the public safety cannot be assured,” she said.

The anti-nuclear activists say the design of the 42-year-old Pilgrim plant is fatally flawed: the cooling system is outmoded and unsafe. They warn the accumulated waste stored above the reactor from all of those years of producing electricity from atomic energy is an accident waiting to happen.

“If there were a significant release of radiation you’re talking about relocating hundreds of thousands of people, permanently or for decades, which just seems like a bizarre plan to have on the shelf for a power plant that we don’t even need,” said state Sen. Daniel Wolf, who represents the Cape and Islands.

Pilgrim produces about 10 percent of the state’s electricity. If there were a severe accident the state has plans to evacuate the Cape for a 10-mile radius. That’s what the federal NRC requires. But after the Fukushima disaster U.S. officials ordered Americans there to evacuate 50 miles around the plant. If that happened to Pilgrim it would include Boston.

At Monday’s rally organizers played a video recorded two years ago when Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz spoke to the residents of Harwich.

“And the unfortunate reality, which is what Fukushima faces today, is that this area may well be closed to anyone for years to come,” he said.

Entergy’s Response

Entergy, the company that owns and operates Pilgrim, plans to shut down its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant by year’s end. It’s smaller but similar in design to Pilgrim. Entergy spokesperson Joyce McMahon said that was an economic decision. Pilgrim is safe, she said, and activists are wrong.

“We respect the right of the opponents to make their opinions known,” she said. “And we’re going to continue to focus on operating the plant safely and reliably.”

After their State House rally, anti-Pilgrim activists occupied Patrick’s office, demanding that the governor take up their cause.

After a three-hour wait, the governor met briefly with Turco. He said he shares the protesters’ concerns about the safety of the Pilgrim plant and pledged to write the NRC in Washington. But while Patrick is responsible for the safety of Massachusetts residents he has no authority when it comes to the nuclear plant. That’s a federal issue.

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  • X-Ray

    The fact that the design of the Pilgrim Power Plant is similar to that at Fukushima is not a factor in the risk evaluation. The Japanese reactors withstood the earthquake and tsunami. It was the loss of the back-up generator, which was not well protected which caused the loss. The risk of an earthquake or tsunami at Pilgrim is vanishingly small. Further, many technical changes and modifications have been made at Pilgrim to enhance safety and security. The 40 years or reliable operation are indicative of that. The risk and result of a nuclear event at Pilgrim is being wildly overstated by the interveners, obstructionists, and NIMBYs. Better a few tons of segregated spent fuel than millions of tons of exhaust dumped into our atmosphere which we all breathe and which may be changing our climate.

  • Meg_Sheehantwo

    Another concern is Entergy’s new high level radioactive waste dump slated for operation in Summer-Fall 2014. Find out more: http://www.concernedneighborsofpilgrim.org

    • X-Ray

      There is no “waste dump”, only dry cask waste spent fuel storage.

  • Arkuy The Great

    “Pilgrim produces about 10 percent of the state’s electricity.”
    What will that 10% be replaced with if Pilgrim goes offline permanently? The most recent power supplier auction for this region yielded a deficit of capacity. There is no slack in the system to make up for the loss of this plant. If Pilgrim shuts down we go dark.

  • John Luciani

    Nuclear power should not be shutdown because activists say it is unsafe. Any of the nuclear accidents have always been caused by companies poorly managing the facility and cutting costs where one shouldn’t cut costs. Nuclear is not unsafe. The only concerns I would have is how viable long term spent fuel storage is and how safe the casks are and ensuring that the plant does not cut corners in any way.

  • X-Ray

    Reference please.

  • X-Ray

    Every one of these assertions is partly or completely false.

  • wreckinball

    I work in the power industry and I am amazed at the ignorance the general public has regarding nuclear safety and how our electric supply system works.

    1) Nuclear is not safe based on incidents like Fukushima, Chernobyl and TMI. First off, these incidents are not similar. TMI was a internal failure of plant equipment that was contained. It was not an an accident as far as the public was concerned. Chernobyl was a bad design that was intentionally mis-operated. Fukushima had an inadequate design basis in regards to protection from a Tsunami.

    None of these incidents caused significant deaths. Ithink Chernobyl had casualties on a small (maybe a dozen?) number of first responders.

    Gas plants explode and cause more deaths each year than the entire history of nuclear as a comparison. The industry learns from these incidents and has improved safety features.

    Moral of the story is that generating large amounts of power is a dangerous business. Nuclear is the safest option.

    2) Anti-nukes seem to be fixated on only two sources or power, solar and wind. Our power system needs large amounts of power that is always available (i.e. not based on the weather). To be efficient these power sources also have to have high density unless you want transmission lines everywhere.

    Moral of this is that solar and wind do not replace nuclear. Its analogous to thinking that an old wind powered warship replaces a modern nuclear powered battleship.

  • X-Ray

    Burning of fossil fuels (e.g., cars, home heating, power plants) produce dangerous waste too, except they exhaust it into our atmosphere which we rely on for breathing, and where it may cause climate change.

  • Peter Moss

    Was there a loss of coolant accident?

  • John Luciani

    Headlines do not determine whether it is safe or not. Managing a plant properly and using proper procedures to store waste is what makes a plant safe. One cannot claim nuclear is unsafe due to natural disasters like Fukushima.

    The emissions into our atmosphere are much safer than that of any other energy source, excluding renewables. Nuclear emits 5.8 percent of the amount of co2 than natural gas plants.

    What should be looked into, is better ways to recycle the waste, forming the waste into new materials for reuse in different types of reactors as well as cleaning and condensing the water waste to recycle as much water as possible. Russia presently has a process they use to recycle the waste from old reactors from submarines that makes the water drinkable and condenses the waste down to take up much less space when it comes to storing.

    There have also been studies to take some of the exhaust and use it to vent into greenhouses creating a year round greenhouse.

    • ForDemocracy

      I feel sorry for those who care so little about the lives of OTHERS, THE FUTURE GENERATIONS & MAYBE THEIR OWN GRANDCHILDREN, that they accept without question the magical thinking produced by a culture that produced & dropped a radioactive nightmare…and then SPENT THE REST OF THE 20th C. FINDING WAYS TO CONDONE ITS DEVELOPMENT. NOW, THE 21st C. is here & we STILL ALLOW OUR PRESIDENTS & CONGRESS TO BE DICTATED TO BY CORPORATIONS & VESTED INTERESTS WHO BENEFIT FROM THIS HELLISH “ENERGY SOURCE” and call it ‘safe’. GET THE FACTS, STOP RELYING ON PROPAGANDA. STOP EXCUSING THE INEXCUSABLE.

  • John Luciani

    You should also look into using a more credible news agency for your facts and information gathering. ENENEWS is a joke.

  • Raj Err

    While the usefulness of goods, services, and natural resources tends to be self-evident, the merit of one’s efforts can only be determined through subjective evaluation by others.

    • X-Ray

      The truth would be better served by an “Objective Evaluation” based on rational and quantitative factors.

  • ForDemocracy

    Thanks to WBUR for the recent reports on what citizens across Massachusetts have been demanding for decades: shut Pilgrim because it is an antiquated, poorly designed & flawed danger to the public, with over-loaded radioactive fuel rods stored above ground virtually unprotected from terrorism or natural disasters..now a ‘de facto nuclear waste dump’ publically labeled by the Plymouth town Selectmen in 2013 in a meeting held with NRC representatives. What citizens have demanded, the safety & health for the public living within the 50 mile radius of the nuclear plant (including BOSTON) is now compounded by what we know is still taking place-the disaster at Fukushima and the same faulty 50 year old GE Mark II design at Pilgrim…except Pilgrim stores more spent radioactive fuel on site, four times its original intent. In addition, ALL 15 CAPE COD TOWNS HAVE DEMOCRATICALLY CALLED FOR THE SHUT DOWN OF A PLANT WHOSE ELECTRICITY (according to the ISOE) IS NOT NEEDED BY MA. YET CONTINUES TO BE APROVED BY THE NRC DESPITE ITS OWN DOWNGRADING YEAR AFTER YEAR (now on the top 9 most frequent shut-down list of 102 reactors across the U.S.) We DEMAND Boston MEDIA..that is, THE BOSTON GLOBE…do its job as WBUR has begun doing. ALERT BOSTON CITIZENS OF THE DANGER POSED…BY SIMPLY DOING THEIR JOB AS RESPONSIBLE PUBLIC JOURNALISTS (THE FOURTH ESTATE!). Thank you BUR, THE BOSTON GLOBE NOW NEEDS TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE!

  • ForDemocracy

    It is evidence of the failure of government and media that such preposterous assertions (nuclear is safe!) can still pour out of the mouths of our citizens. Scientists & researchers have given a preponderance of evidence over the last 60 years (perhaps we should start with Madame Curie, Einstein & Openheimer) that nuclear radiaction is a lethal ‘weapon’, and should never have been considered for use as an ‘energy source’. If we had listened to unbiased scientists (not endowed by the military-energy-empire’s government-tax-payers billions in grants, academic programs, government largess- cointinuing thru TODAY WITH PRES. OBAMA’s UPSURGE IN NUCLEAR SPENDING!!)… we would have unleashed the potential of green, safe, alternative energy sources…saved going into wars for oil, saved the environment from devastating oil & fracking & coal disasters, saved thousands of lives due to cancer from radioactive fuel waste/storage/
    leaks/water-thru-cycles that have polluted & endangered our water ways, marine life and plant life (our FOOD SUPPLY). Why did Reagan remove solar panels from the White House that Carter had installed, as soon as he was ‘elected’? Because of his long cozy (ATOMS FOR PEACE) relationship with the nuclear/military complex former President Dwight D, Eisenhower warned about.
    We Americans must stop being unconcerned about our own lives & welfare, stop protecting a LONG DEAD, ZOMBIE TECHNOLOGY. Nuclear is too expensive IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD to any longer condone & protect its existence based on fairy tales and magical thinking. Get INFORMED! Stop hallucinating! Radiation kills. We have NO SOLUTION TO RADIOACTIVE WASTE! NO PLACE TO STORE IT, NO WAY TO GET RID OF IT! THe ‘old’ slogan was “BETTER ACTIVE TODAY THAN RADIOACTIVE TOMOROW!” FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S SAKE, GET SERIOUS!

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