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Pilgrim Nuclear Plant Transfer To Go On Despite Coronavirus Concerns

Plans to transfer radioactive spent fuel at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth to steel-lined dry casks will go on as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic, the company decommissioning the now-closed plant said.

Pilgrim permanently shut down last May and was subsequently sold by Entergy Corp. to Holtec International for decommissioning.

The company's timetable calls for moving 3,000 spent-fuel assemblies now in a pool to dry casks by the end of 2021.

Thirty new workers arrived at the site recently and began a two-week training period.

There have been concerns about moving the fuel during the pandemic because some of the workers brought in to do the job were from out of state.

Mary Lambert, with the nonprofit organization Pilgrim Watch, wrote a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker urging him to hold Holtec accountable to the state's out-of-state travel advisory.

"I understand that ... Holtec plans to bring in 30 contractors from various states to move some of the spent nuclear fuel assemblies that are now in the spent fuel pool into dry casks. There is no reason that this transfer must be made now," Lambert wrote. "These new contractors are in no way, shape or form necessary for the safe operation of the plant or for Holtec to meet its overall decommissioning schedule."

Bringing workers to Massachusetts from other states amid the pandemic "greatly increases the risk not only to Pilgrim's current workers but also to their families and the broader Plymouth community," Lambert wrote.

Holtec understands the concerns, company spokesman Patrick O'Brien told the Cape Cod Times.

In response, some workers were sent home and requested to self-quarantine for two weeks prior to beginning the in-processing to the site, he said.

Diane Turco, president of the watchdog group Cape Downwinders, was also critical of Holtec's decision to move forward.

"It is extremely irresponsible to do the dangerous work of transferring high-level waste from the pool to dry casks if the workers are at risk to become ill," Turco said.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has an on-site inspector at Pilgrim.

With reporting from WBUR's Bruce Gellerman.

This article was originally published on April 04, 2020.

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