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NRC Staff Recommends Sale Of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Federal regulators plan to approve the sale of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station to New Jersey-based Holtec International.  The company has never fully decommissioned a nuclear plant before, and proposes to complete the process in eight years.

Staff from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Notice of Significant Licensing Action on Tuesday, notifying NRC commissioners of their intent to approve the license transfer and sale. The commission has five business days to weigh in before NRC staff issues their final decision.

After about a year of review, the NRC staff concluded that Holtec is "financially and technically qualified to own the Pilgrim nuclear power plant and carry out the decommissioning of the facility," according to a NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

If Holtec purchases Pilgrim from current owner Energy, Holtec will receive the plant, the surrounding land and a decommissioning trust fund currently valued around $1 billion.

“Entergy and Holtec believe that the transfer of Pilgrim to Holtec for prompt decommissioning is in the best interests of the town of Plymouth and surrounding communities, the nearly 270 people from the region who work at Pilgrim, and the Commonwealth," wrote Holtec spokesman Joe Delmarin in an email. "We are confident that the license transfer application demonstrated that Holtec possesses the technical and financial qualifications required to safely decommission Pilgrim. We look forward to completing the transaction if regulatory approval is obtained.”

Earlier this year Attorney General Maura Healey and citizen's group Pilgrim Watch filed petitions to intervene and requested hearings on the proposed sale. They raised concerns about Holtec's cost estimate for cleanup, and the company's ability to complete the decommissioning of the plant quickly and safely. Both petitions are still pending.

Sen. Ed Markey sent a letter to the NRC urging commissioners not to decide on the license transfer without first ruling on the petitions.

“Too many questions remain and too few answers have been provided to the Commonwealth and to local residents about the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant,” said Markey in a statement. “More hearings and opportunities for public input are needed to resolve critical outstanding questions – until that happens, this license transfer should not be approved."

Plymouth resident Sean Mullin, chair of the state's Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, called Tuesday's decision a "national disgrace," saying it left many questions concerning cost and public safety unanswered.

"The NRC's process is a sham," said Mullin, "and it's solely designed and executed to prevent the concerns of citizens from being heard, or even considered, in the NRC's decision-making process."

Related:

Barbara Moran Twitter Senior Producing Editor, Environment
Barbara Moran is the senior producing editor for WBUR’s environmental vertical.

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