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Mass. AG Maura Healey Sues NRC Over Pilgrim Nuclear Power License Transfer

The closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station removes a source of carbon-free energy from the region. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
The closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station removes a source of carbon-free energy from the region. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Attorney General Maura Healey sued the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over its recent approval of the transfer of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station license.

The attorney general lodged the suit Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over the NRC's decision last month to approve the transfer of Pilgrim's license from Entergy to Holtec International.

Healey, Gov. Charlie Baker's energy and environment secretariat and members of the state's Congressional delegation mounted an effort to block the transfer unless the NRC held a full hearing on concerns over Holtec's ability to safely decommission the nuclear plant, the company's financial stability and its alleged involvement in a kickback scheme. No hearing was held before the NRC approved the transfer.

"The NRC has repeatedly rubber stamped Holtec's plans, despite serious concerns about the company's financial capacity, technical qualifications, and competency to safely decommission and clean up the Pilgrim site," Healey said in a statement. "We are asking the Court to exercise its authority to vacate the NRC's misguided and unsupported actions."

The NRC declined to comment on Healey's lawsuit. When the agency issued its order approving the license transfer, it refuted some of Healey's arguments.

"In reviewing the license transfer application, the NRC staff considered the Holtec and HDI technical and financial qualifications, the adequacy of Pilgrim's decommissioning trust funds to complete the radiological decommissioning of the plant, and the adequacy of plans to manage the onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel until it can be removed for storage or disposal elsewhere," NRC said in a release. "The staff concluded that Holtec and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees."

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said the administration "remains strongly committed to ensuring the Pilgrim Nuclear Power station is decommissioned in a manner that protects the safety of the public and environment" and is assisting Healey's office in the suit.

In her lawsuit, Healey alleged that the NRC "acted arbitrarily and capriciously, abused its discretion, and violated the Atomic Energy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, NEPA, the Council on Environmental Quality's NEPA regulations, and the NRC's own regulations and policies in effecting the foregoing final agency actions and failing to provide the Commonwealth with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process as contemplated by the Atomic Energy Act and the NRC's own regulations and policies."

The suit seeks to have the court "vacate the NRC's orders, findings, and decisions, remand the matters to the NRC for further proceedings, and grant the Commonwealth any other further relief that the Court may deem just and proper."

The Plymouth nuclear plant, which employed about 600 people and had been generating about 680 megawatts of electricity per year since coming online in 1972, permanently ceased operations May 31.

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