Federal Regulators Reject Attorney General’s Pilgrim Stay Request


PLYMOUTH – A request from Attorney General Maura Healey to stay the license transfer for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from Entergy to Holtec International has been denied by federal regulators.

The stay was proposed to allow officials and the public an opportunity to weigh in on the transfer.

“We received a request for a stay of the decision on the license transfer for Pilgrim from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and from a group called Pilgrim Watch,” said Nuclear Regulatory Commission Spokesman Neil Sheehan.  

“Last week the commission issued a decision, denying that request, however still before the commission is the actual request for a hearing on the license transfer and the commission has not yet rendered a decision on those.”

Over the summer, the NRC’s staff approved the license transfer. However the commission had not yet acted on a petition from state officials to intervene in the license review process.

Entergy sold the power station to Holtec two days after the commission approved the license transfer.

Holtec will oversee the power station’s decommissioning.

Earlier this year, the attorney general’s office filed a request to put a temporary halt on the license transfer.

“We did a very careful review at the time, including looking at the available decommissioning funding for the plant when the NRC staff issued the decision allowing the transfer of the license,” said Sheehan.

“The issue now before the commission remains the request for a hearing on that decision.”

Healey’s office argued that the commission’s failure to act on the petition to intervene had taken away the public’s chance to comment on the transfer, as a public hearing would have been part of the process.

The attorney general’s office also argued that if the stay was not granted, residents would suffer due to decommissioning activities by a licensed company that was deemed “neither technically nor financially qualified to perform the work.”

The commission argued in its denial of the stay that the state failed to provide evidence showing it would suffer damages since the current decommissioning tasks would be the same regardless of who owned the property.

“Whenever we review a license transfer application we take a very close look at the plans the company has developed and part of that is the safety qualifications of the company that would take over those activities,” Sheehan said regarding safety concerns.

“Beyond that, we will have inspectors who will continue to be a presence at the plant. They won’t be there on a full time basis, but they will be there whenever there is major activity taking place.”

The commission also noted that they still have the ability to undo the license transfer or to add conditions to it based on the outcome of the requested hearing.

Legislators and activists were not happy with the denial, with U. S. Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren showing support for the stay.

As part of the continuing struggle between the state and the commission, the attorney general’s office sued the commission in federal court earlier this year.

Healey’s office is seeking to have the court overturn the commission’s license transfer approval and for an exemption that allows the use of the power stations decommissioning trust fund, which totals around $1.1 billion, for non-decommissioning activities.

The suit also claims that the commission violated the Atomic Energy Act, National Environmental Policy, and the commission’s own regulations due to the fact that the license transfer was approved without providing the state an opportunity to review the process.

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