Activists press Baker on Pilgrim problems

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Written by Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE — Activists from groups opposing the operation of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth delivered a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker’s office on Thursday, urging him to call for immediate closure of the plant.

The message from the Massachusetts Downwinders comes a day after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it would increase oversight of the facility, citing weaknesses found in an inspection that followed a January shutdown.

Baker on Wednesday said he believed the plant was safe and that he would stay in contact with the NRC. On Thursday, he sent a letter to officials at Entergy, the energy company that runs Pilgrim, saying he was “troubled” Entergy had not taken the recommended corrective actions to address unplanned shutdowns dating back to 2013.

The governor told plant operators their most important task should be ensuring its safety, but members of the Downwinders group who gathered outside his office said that he did not go far enough.

Diane Turco, a Harwich resident and member of Cape Downwinders, said Entergy has repeatedly been asked to put corrective measures in place at Pilgrim but failed to do so.

“As a teacher, if I gave so many F’s to a student, there would be serious consequences,” she said. “I don’t think this is going to be effective in protecting the people of Massachusetts. I think this is throwing the ball back to Entergy, and they have not given us any confidence that they are going to follow through.”

Calling Pilgrim “a dangerous and error-prone facility” with a high number of emergency shutdowns, the Downwinders’ letter asked Baker to revoke Entergy’s operating license for the plant.

“The governor needs to close this plant immediately,” said Bruce Skud, co-founder of the group No More Fukushimas. “There’s just no other way to protect the citizenry of Massachusetts.”

The Pilgrim opponents said that the risk is too high to continue running a plant that has repeatedly been found to have safety problems, and that the power it generates could be made up for via renewable energy sources or conservation measures.

Mindy d’Arbeloff, Baker’s deputy chief of staff, accepted the letter from the Downwinders and handed a representative of the group a copy of the governor’s own letter to Entergy.

Baker wrote to Entergy Site Vice President John Dent Thursday morning, urging the company to analyze the cause of the shutdowns and then complete any necessary repairs and other corrective actions.

He said he was reassured that the nuclear regulators cleared Pilgrim to keep operating and that the issues revealed by the inspection were “of low to moderate safety significance,” but found it troubling that necessary corrective actions had not been taken in the past.

“Entergy should use this ruling, and subsequent inspections, to make certain that the plant meets the highest safety standards and that every aspect of its operations are in compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the NRC,” Baker wrote.

Sen. Dan Wolf, a Harwich Democrat, called on Baker to join those working to close the plant, saying Pilgrim poses a serious public safety threat that requires intervention from local and state leaders, not just the NRC.

“Even a minor accident — and the plant has been forced into unplanned shutdowns multiple times in recent months — would destroy lives, destroy communities, destroy property values and destroy our economy,” Wolf said in a statement. “How many warning signals do we need before we pay attention?”

Baker has asked Entergy to work with his administration to make sure officials and the public are kept up to date on any corrective actions taken at the plant.

Copyright State House News Service