The bay should not be a radioactive waste dump

Jan 26, 2022 | Over the Bar

By John Pappalardo

A company called Holtec International now owns the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant site in Plymouth, responsible for decommissioning the reactor, cleaning up and decontaminating.

This is a daunting task; the spent fuel rods, now sitting in cement casks lined up like huge bowling pins, will remain dangerously radioactive for 10,000 years. But Holtec, with a lot of ratepayer money to accomplish its mission, has taken on similar challenges at other nuclear power plants around the country, and seems confident in its capacity to do the job and clear a profit.

Most unfortunately, one way they might try to accomplish that is to take a million or more gallons of water used in the process, with low levels of radioactivity, and dump it into Massachusetts Bay. They have “floated” this “solution” in paperwork with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is the sole decisionmaker for matters related to nuclear energy in our country, including waste disposal.

Our board of directors thinks this is one very bad idea.
We aren’t alone in thinking so, but we want to add our voices to the chorus of opposition, hoping the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hear. So the board is sending a letter to our federally elected officials. We know these officials share our views but we want to offer them as much support as possible, and urge them to make opposition a top priority.

Here is that letter, addressed to Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Congressman Bill Keating:

The unanimous board of directors of The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance strongly endorses all efforts to stop any discharge of radioactive water into the marine environment anywhere in or around Massachusetts.
In particular, we believe that a proposal from Holtec International, responsible for decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, to discharge into Massachusetts Bay is a serious breach of public trust and environmental stewardship, with potential for wholesale economic harm as well.
For 30 years, the Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has represented hundreds of small-boat, conservation-minded commercial fishermen. Our members include shellfish harvesters and growers as well, with thousands of community supporters.
Holtec has no right to use our Commonwealth’s marine environment as their dumping ground. While the company says there will be no environmental or health impacts, their proposal invokes a strategy that has been discredited time and again: The solution to pollution is not dilution.
At the very least, disposal of radioactive water from the decommissioned Pilgrim site into fishing and aquaculture habitat creates a serious negative perception for consumers, which would certainly damage one of the state’s most important industries.
Furthermore, exposures and risks this might represent, however small, are unnecessary. The company decommissioning the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant has disposed of a comparable amount of radioactive water by shipping it to a landfill in Idaho, mixing the water with clay to produce a stable, disposable product. Holtec has access to approximately $900 million of ratepayer money to accomplish decommissioning, so this alternative, while slightly more expensive than dumping into the ocean, surely is viable and affordable.
We stand ready to work with you and support you in whatever ways possible to ensure that this threat does not become reality. We thank you for your opposition to date, and for your support going forward.
The Board of Directors of The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance

Should you agree with us, and want to join in, please feel free to use any or all of this language, adding or substituting any of your own thoughts of course.
To reach Senator Markey use this link, then copy and paste your comments. For a subject, you could choose “fisheries” or “environment,” both work:

For Senator Warren, here’s the link:

Unfortunately she doesn’t have a subject choice for “fisheries,” so you can choose “environment.”

For Congressman Keating, you need to enter your zip code to get started and again, choose “environment” because there is no “fisheries” choice.

Does outreach like this matter? The honest answer is sometimes yes, sometimes no — but it sure as hell never hurts.


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