PLYMOUTH – The company in charge of dismantling of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant announced Monday that it will not release radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay in 2022.
“We wanted to share that in the short term the decision at Pilgrim has been made that the treated water will remain on site, safely stored, and that we will not discharge any treated water in 2022 while this assessment (options d ‘disposal alternatives) are being undertaken,’ according to an emailed statement by Patrick O’Brien, senior director of government affairs and communications for Holtec Decommissioning International.
The email said the company valued and understood the public’s questions and concerns and “remained engaged in an open and transparent process on the decommissioning of Pilgrim Station with a focus on public health and safety, the environment and the environment. staff on site “.
The news that releasing up to 1 million gallons of water used to cool the radioactive bars and other components in the spent fuel pool and other parts of the facility were under consideration was announced at a Nov. 22 meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.
On Monday, O’Brien reiterated that no decision has been made on whether to evaporate, discharge or transport the water to another facility.
Radioactive water discharge plans
But it seemed to contradict an email to U.S. Representative William Keating’s staff last week from Nuclear Regulatory Commission Congressional Affairs Officer Carolyn Wolf that “Holtec has informed the NRC that it plans to discharge liquid effluent in the first quarter of 2022.”
At the advisory committee meeting, the company said it would evaluate options over the next six months to a year. Monday’s press release committed to at least a year while this process was being followed.
Holtec and NRC Officials said in interviews that radioactivity and other contaminants such as metals in cooling water would be reduced through a filtering process to levels allowed by federal permits before being released, and that the environmental impacts and levels in the ocean would be monitored. The plant periodically released treated radioactive water during its operations, most recently in 2017, O’Brien said.
In an interview on Monday, Keating said he hoped Holtec would honor its promise not to dump water in Cape Cod Bay in 2022. But he was disappointed that Monday’s press release did not mention the pledge. from the public and stakeholders in making that decision, calling it an “obvious omission”.
NRC and Holtec have repeatedly stated that no public comment is required to make their decision.
âThe NDCAP (advisory group) is really the public forum for decommissioning, I’m not sure if the EPA / DEP / NRC will have anything else,â O’Brien said in an email Monday.
More time to study the impact on maritime industries
Keating hoped the one-year delay would allow the federal government Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies the opportunity to speak out.
âIt’s really important that we have that time frame to really look at this issue because once (the elimination option) is implemented, we can’t undo it,â Keating said.
in an interview on Friday, Keating said any release of radioactive water from the plant would impact the region’s maritime industries, including aquaculture, fishing and recreation, potentially through bioaccumulation in the food chain, but also by damaging the region’s reputation as a source of seafood and recreational opportunities.
Keating advocated hauling the water by truck to an off-site facility and O’Brien had identified an Idaho plant at the advisory committee meeting as a possible site.
Holtec is paying for the Pilgrim cleanup from a $ 1.03 billion decommissioning trust fund to which taxpayers have contributed over time.
During a December 1 Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works hearing on monitoring the Nuclear Regulatory CommissionUS Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass., criticized the agency’s handling of the decommissioning and the lack of public participation.
Markey told NRC President Christopher Hanson that his agency has waived responsibility, leaving decisions largely to the private companies that do the work.
âThe NRC has decided that the best way to protect itself from criticism is to opt out of the process,â Markey said. He said a new decommissioning rule relegates the agency only to acknowledging receipt of a plan from a private company seeking to dismantle a power plant.
“He (the NRC) would serve as a glorified filing cabinet. Handing over the post of regulator to the nuclear industry itself is not a victory for security, for communities or for the energy sector,” Markey said. , who particularly criticized the diminished role of public commentary.
“I urge you to ensure that there is full participation of NRC and the public (in reviewing decommissioning plans) because the (nuclear) industry … is known to save money and ultimately we cannot not allow public safety to be endangered at all, âMarkey said.
Contact Doug Fraser at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.