The quickly deteriorating conditions at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, MA will now show up on Newton’s November ballot. There will be a non-binding ballot question as to whether Governor Baker should instruct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to revoke Pilgrim’s operating license because the safety of the public cannot be assured.
“We can’t keep up with the rate of deteriorating conditions,” said Guntram Mueller, co-chair of Boston Downwinders, which worked to put this on the ballot. “When the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Warren agreed to having the question on the ballot, Pilgrim was rated by the NRC as one of the 5 least safe in the country. Since then, it’s been downgraded again, to be one of the 3 least safe.” The most recent downgrading was due to recurring emergency shutdowns whose root causes have not been determined.
That the design of Pilgrim was dangerous was recognized already in 1972, when an Atomic Energy Commission safety official recommended that the design be discontinued. Pilgrim is now 43 years old, and its age is becoming apparent in frequent equipment malfunctions. In addition, a Pentagon-commissioned analysis rates it as one of the 8 most vulnerable plants in the country, because its cooling water intake, from the ocean, is unprotected. And a loss of cooling in the spent fuel pool would result in a fire, causing an estimated 24,000 cancers and $582 billion in damages.
Asked whether shutting down Pilgrim could result in electricity shortages, Mr. Mueller said: “Pilgrim supplies only 2% of the generating capacity of the ISO New England pool (680 MW of 33,000 MW), while ISO New England projects a reserve generating capacity of 12% to 20% over the next 10 years.”
Each of the 15 communities on Cape Cod have already voted to shut Pilgrim. This concern is now reaching the Boston area. As Susan Mirsky of Boston Downwinders said: “How many warning signs do we need before we get the message?”