State officials are pushing for more transparency from federal regulators about safety concerns at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth.
In a letter dated Jan. 4 to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, Sen. Edward Markey and several other lawmakers called for a public meeting in Massachusetts to allow the agency to answer questions and communicate directly with the public about the safety of the nuclear power plant and provide details about recent shutdowns.
The letter comes after the inadvertent disclosure of an email last month from the leader of the NRC special inspection team noting continued concerns about operations at the plant, including poor engineering expertise and a “safety culture problem.”
In the letter, the team leader commented that plant staff “seems overwhelmed by just trying to run the” nuclear plant.
“The NRC has an obligation to address the operation of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant and the increased public concerns that continue to plague the plant at a time when it should be showing significant improvements,” Healey said. “The public’s serious questions about the safety of this plant and risks it poses to the environment, workers and residents need to be answered immediately.”
The letter states that a public meeting also would provide an opportunity for the NRC to discuss the cause of the plant’s most recent shutdown, including how the leaks in three of the plant’s eight main steam isolation valves were discovered, why they were not discovered earlier, and what steps have been taken to inspect the integrity of the remaining steam isolation valves. These valves are used to prevent a leak of radioactivity into the environment during a nuclear accident.
In light of the documented ongoing safety issues at the plant, the letter also calls on the NRC to deny a request from the plant’s owner, Entergy, for an exemption from NRC’s post-Fukushima Dai-ichi plant safety upgrades.
The NRC downgraded Pilgrim safety’s status to the least safe category in September 2015 based on recurring safety issues at the plant. In October 2015, Entergy announced that it will shut down the plant by June 2019, citing low energy prices, reduced revenues, and increased operational costs.
Pilgrim generates 680 megawatts of electricity.