The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the sale of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station from Entergy Corp. to Holtec International, which has promised to decommission the closed plant more quickly than required.
The approval allows Holtec, a New Jersey-based company with no experience in decommissioning a nuclear power plant, to acquire the operating license from Entergy, a Louisiana-based company that has owned the plant since 1999.
HDI, a subsidiary of Holtec, will oversee the decommissioning.
“In reviewing the license transfer application, the NRC staff considered the Holtec and HDI technical and financial qualifications, the adequacy of Pilgrim’s decommissioning trust funds to complete the radiological decommissioning of the plant, and the adequacy of plans to manage the onsite storage of spent nuclear fuel until it can be removed for storage or disposal elsewhere,” the commission said in a statement.
“The staff concluded that Holtec and HDI met the regulatory, legal, technical and financial requirements necessary to qualify as licensees.”
The Plymouth plant shut down in May after 47 years of producing electricity.
Holtec, which specializes in the storage and transportation of nuclear waste, has promised to decommission the site in eight years, well ahead of the 60 years allowed by federal rules.
State and local officials have criticized the proposed sale, saying Holtec has not shown that its plan has enough safeguards to protect the public.
“The decision, while not surprising, is outrageous,” said Sean Mullin, chair of the state’s Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.
“In reaching this decision, the NRC ignored its own regulatory process . . . the NRC has disregarded the concerns of the Commonwealth in favor of one private company who stands to make billions of dollars — of ratepayer-funded monies.”
He added: “This decision is not the end of this process; it’s the beginning of a long fight to force the NRC to protect the interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth and the nation — and not the interests of an industry that [they] are legally mandated to regulate.”
Environmental officials, in conjunction with the state attorney general’s office, had petitioned the NRC to hold a hearing on the state’s concerns before deciding on the sale.
Chloe Gotsis, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, said, “We are deeply disappointed in the NRC’s misguided decision to approve the license transfer and trust fund exemption requests, and its failure to meaningfully consult with our state prior to doing so.”
“We continue to have serious concerns about Holtec’s financial capacity, technical qualifications, and judgment to safely and properly clean up the site, and store and manage Pilgrim’s spent nuclear fuel,” she said in a statement. “We are reviewing all of our available options to ensure the health, safety and interests of our residents and the environment are protected.”
Holtec officials said in a statement that they were pleased with the NRC’s decision.
“The NRC’s approval is a major milestone that reaffirms Holtec’s regulatory and financial position to safely and efficiently decommission Pilgrim,” said Kris Singh , Holtec’s CEO.
“Holtec remains committed to completing decommissioning and site restoration decades sooner than if Entergy completed decommissioning. This will allow the plant site to serve a useful purpose much earlier which will benefit the local community.”
David Abel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.