Downwinders Start Ballot Campaign to Move Pilgrim’s Spent Fuel

COURTESY PILGRIM NUCLEAR POWER STATION

PLYMOUTH – An organization calling for the immediate closure of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has initiated a Cape-wide ballot campaign to get spent fuel moved to dry cask storage.

The Cape Downwinders’ non-binding public advisory question will call on Governor Baker to expedite the removal of the spent fuel in the pool at the Plymouth facility.

Diane Turco with the Cape Downwinders said the pool currently houses more than 2,800 spent fuel assemblies which but was only designed to hold 880 temporarily.

“Because there is no federal repository the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has amended the license at Pilgrim to allow more and more waste to be stored in that pool,” Turco said. “It’s tightly racked and densely packed and has been deemed an imminent threat by an attorney general’s report that was issued in 2006.”

The spent fuel pool is located in the attic of the facility outside of the main containment structure and has a tin roof, according to Turco.

“It’s very, very vulnerable,” Turco said.

Turco said moving the spent fuel into dry cask storage isn’t a perfect solution, but is much safer.

“It’s safer than having the fuel in a pool where a spontaneous fire could happen,” she said.

The attorney general’s 2006 report indicated a fire in the pool could result in as many as 24,000 latent cancers, $488 billion in damages and hundreds of miles of contamination.

“There’s 11 times more cesium in that pool right now than was released at Chernobyl,” Turco said.

The Cape Downwinders are planning to hold public programs in towns across the Cape to educate the public about the dangers of the plant.

Provincetown, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Chatham, Dennis, Mashpee, Bourne and Sandwich have approved the petitions inclusion on spring town meeting warrants or at the ballots. The boards of the remaining Cape towns will take up the petition request next month.

In 2013, a Cape Downwinders’ campaign for a vote to close the plant passed in all 15 Cape Cod towns.

Pilgrim has been under increase federal scrutiny and is listed as one of the worst-performing nuclear plants in the country.

Plant owner Entergy previously announced it would close the facility in 2019 after one more refueling this year.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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