Officials want public meeting over Pilgrim Power Plant safety
The state’s top elected leaders are calling on the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a public meeting in Massachusetts to discuss safety concerns at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.
The officials, including US senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, made the request in a letter Wednesday to NRC Chairman Stephen G. Burns, citing a recent e-mail from an agency inspector that described an “overwhelmed” staff at the Plymouth plant.
“The views expressed . . . in a December 6, 2016 e-mail have raised legitimate concerns among the public about their safety and raised serious questions about [plant owner] Entergy’s ability to continue to operate the plant safely,” the letter states.
Signatories included Warren, Markey, the state’s entire US House delegation, and several Beacon Hill officials including Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey.
Asked for comment Wednesday, Entergy spokesman Patrick O’Brien reiterated the company’s December statement that an ongoing NRC review of the plant is “the next step in Pilgrim’s process toward a return to industry excellence,” and that Pilgrim has worked hard to fix problems that led to its “performance decline.”
Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman, said in an e-mail that the agency will consider the elected officials’ request for a public meeting.
“It’s important to point out that our inspectors continuously evaluate plant safety as issues are identified and Pilgrim remains safe based on what we have seen thus far,” Sheehan wrote.
The call for a meeting comes amid the ongoing NRC review of operations at the plant, which the agency has classified as having a poor safety record. Recent incidents include shutdowns in August, September, and December to address equipment problems.
Concerns intensified in early December, when a memo from the lead NRC inspector looking into Pilgrim was accidentally sent to an environmental advocate, who gave it to the Cape Cod Times newspaper. The document, first published in the Times, described a staff that appeared “overwhelmed by just trying to run the station,” and a “safety culture problem” at the facility.
Sheehan said Wednesday that the memo contained preliminary observations, and the inspection team will return to the plant on Monday.
But lawmakers were already sounding alarms in Wednesday’s letter, writing that “the Company is quite clearly not working hard enough.”
The plant is scheduled to close permanently in 2019.