Fate of Radioactive Waste at Plymouth Nuclear Site Continues to Raise Concerns

This comes amid ongoing conversations about how Holtec International, which purchased Plymouth's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2019, intends to complete the plant's decommissioning

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The Plymouth Board of Health has issued a resolution strongly opposing any potential plan to dump nearly 1 million gallons of radioactive waste into Cape Cod Bay.

This comes amid ongoing conversations about how Holtec International, which purchased Plymouth's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2019, intends to complete the plant's decommissioning. While Holtec says no final decisions have been made about what it will do with Pilgrim's radioactive waste, many in the area fear it will be released into the bay.

The Board of Health Resolution said that type of release could likely cause "immense" damage to the area's shell fishing, aquaculture, maritime and tourist-based economy. It also notes that there would be health hazards for exposure to the type of radioactive compounds in question, including increased risk of cancers and potential harm to pregnant women and their fetuses.

"All of these radioactive compounds have already been found in the surface water, groundwater and soils at Pilgrim at levels exceeding "background levels," the resolution reads. "There is also a longer-term risk to our sole source aquifer water supply - especially from tritium which isn't removed by existing filtration producers used to purification attempts."

The resolution goes on to urge Holtec to choose the "safest possible disposal method" for the radioactive water that must be removed during the decommissioning process. It also urges lawmakers to add new language to state law to prohibit this type of release of solid or radioactive material in coastal or inland waters.

See the full letter below.

The state Department of Public Health commissioner has warned that more money is needed to ensure the safe monitoring of the Pilgrim site. The state is required to conduct regular monitoring and testing at the location throughout the decommissioning process in the interest of public health and safety.

At a meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel in January, dozens spoke out against any type of plan that involves dumping the waste into the Cape Cod Bay.

Sen. Ed Markey, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Bill Keating and Rep. Seth Moulton, penned a letter to Holtec on Jan. 12 to condemn the proposal.

"The strong public opposition to news of the proposed discharge reflects Holtec’s failure to engage in the forthright, open, and transparent process that it promised the Plymouth community and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when it took over the operating license for the decommissioning of Pilgrim," the letter read.

Holtec released the following statement to the NBC10 Boston Investigators earlier in January:

  • "Since the November 22nd Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory meeting there have been questions and concerns around the final disposition of processed water on the site. We have been consistent in our messaging since that meeting that over the next year we will be evaluating the regulatory approved options available and no final decisions have been made. The EPA and NRC have strict regulations regarding the disposition of all effluents from any decommissioning site and Holtec confirms that these requirements will be followed in all states where we conduct operations. We wanted to share that in the near term the decision at Pilgrim has been made that the processed water will remain on site, safely stored, and that we will not discharge any processed water in 2022 while this evaluation is undertaken. We appreciate and understand the public's questions and concerns and remain committed to an open, transparent process on the decommissioning of Pilgrim Station focused on the health and safety of the public, the environment, and on-site personnel."
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