State Reaches Deal With Pilgrim Owners On Cleanup

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)
This article is more than 1 year old.

On Wednesday State Attorney General Maura Healey and the Baker Administration announced an agreement with the owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, which ended operations in 2019. The settlement with Holtec, which purchased the plant last year, resolves a petition and two lawsuits that the state filed to challenge the license transfer to Holtec and the company's cleanup and restoration plan for the site.

“Since the beginning of this proposed transfer, we have prioritized the health, safety and interests of our residents, and took steps to ensure that the local community and environment are protected,” Healey said in a statement. “This agreement provides critical protections, includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements, and secures the funds necessary to safely and properly clean up this site.”

According to Healey's statement, the agreement will set aside funds to "safely dismantle the nuclear power plant, clean up radiological and non-radiological contamination, restore the site, and manage spent nuclear fuel onsite until it is transported out of the state."

The agreement requires that Holtec keep at least $193 million on hand until it completes most of the cleanup and site restoration work, and $38.4 million to eventually move the spent nuclear fuel out of state.

Holtec has also agreed to comply with state cleanup standards for both radiological and non-radiological hazardous materials. The state radiological cleanup standard of 10 millirem is 40% stricter than the federal standard. The site will be "cleaned up to a level that will allow for its future reuse to benefit of surrounding local communities, including the Town of Plymouth," according to Healey's statement. MassDEP and DPH will oversee the cleanup work.

"It's an agreement that I think worked for everybody. And it really reaches the common goal of what we're looking to do, which is safely and efficiently clean up this site," said Holtec spokesperson Patrick O'Brien. O'Brien expressed optimism that the site could serve as an "economic engine" that could help fill the void left by Pilgrim's closure. He also said he expects all of the radioactive fuel will be placed in dry cask storage by January 2022.

Holtec has also agreed to implement cybersecurity measures at the plant, and provide funding to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency for emergency preparedness.

"I applaud the Baker Administration and the Attorney General's Office for their extraordinary collaboration during the Commonwealth's negotiations with Holtec," said Plymouth resident Sean Mullin, chair of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP), in an e-mail. "The collective approach they took is a model for other sites across the nation."

Mullin expressed disappointment, however, that the agreement didn't address several issues important to Plymouth regarding ongoing public safety, environmental and financial concerns. "It's absurd that all Holtec agreed to for the Town of Plymouth and surrounding communities is to plant trees and some year-round foliage," Mullin said. "I believe the Town of Plymouth should immediately hire counsel to vigorously pursue all legal options to force Holtec to negotiate these critically important issues."

Kris Singh, President and CEO of Holtec International, wrote in a statement that the finalization of the agreement shows the company's commitment to engaging Massachusetts officials on the site restoration process.

“The path to returning the site to a decontaminated state, which allows us to spawn new economic activity on the property that is beneficial to both the community and our company, has been made clearer in this agreement," he said.

This article was originally published on June 17, 2020.


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


Bruce Gellerman Twitter Senior Reporter
Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.