Boston (October 13, 2015) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), released the following statement today after Entergy announced the permanent closure of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station by 2019. Senator Markey has been a leading voice in Congress on nuclear reactor safety and oversight.
Last month, the NRC listed the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts in “Column 4” of its reactor safety ratings, its least safe rating for an operating reactor. The rating means that Pilgrim has had multiple and repetitive safety problems that require increased NRC oversight. Restoring a reactor from Column 4 back to normal levels of NRC oversight is estimated to cost more than $100 million. Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc., based in Louisiana, is the operator of the facility, and additionally operates the only other two reactors in the country that are listed in Column 4. Last week, Senator Markey questioned all of the NRC Commissioners at an EPW hearing about whether Entergy had the financial resources it needed to safely operate its reactors.
“While nuclear energy was once advertised as being too cheap to meter, it is increasingly clear that it is actually too expensive to matter. Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is just the latest example of how nuclear power simply cannot compete in the current energy market. And alongside the economic conditions that Entergy blames this closure on, there also have been decades-long and repetitive operational safety and security concerns with the facility that have contributed to this announcement. The remaining period of operation of Pilgrim needs to be with the utmost attention to safety and security, and must include rigorous oversight by the NRC to ensure that Entergy has and is spending the resources needed.
“As the plant moves towards permanent shut down, priority must be given and special attention paid to worker assistance and transition training. The workers at Pilgrim are committed, skilled and valuable and have been an important part of economic activity in the region. The NRC must also ensure Entergy dedicates adequate financial and technical resources to remove the spent nuclear fuel from the overcrowded spent fuel pool and decommission the reactor quickly. We cannot allow the public to pay the price if Entergy comes up short on the bill to safely close this plant.
“With this announcement we must also recognize that the time is now in New England and around the nation to rapidly transition towards the safe, affordable clean energy of wind, solar and geothermal power and continue to invest in energy efficiency and making the vehicles on our roads even more fuel efficient.”