Energy

Advocates Rally Outside Nuclear Commission

By Sarah Birnbaum & Kristina Finn   |   Thursday, June 7, 2012
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June 7, 2012

pilgrim protest june 7 2012
Protesters against the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant as they demonstrate outside a hearing of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on June 7. The hearing was requested by the anti-Pilgrim group, Pilgrim Watch, whose members were among the protesters. (Steven Senne/AP)

 
BOSTON — Advocates rallied in Post Office Square outside a hearing of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the morning of June 7 to protest the relicensing of the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant. 
 
Janet Domenitz, executive director of liberal-leaning think-tank Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, was among the protesters.
 
"Pilgrim is not safe. Nuclear power is expensive, it is unsafe to the public health and to the environment and we need to find alternatives," she said. "The idea that the NRC has just given this aging plant another 20 years of life shows that they are not paying attention. And we are. And we are calling for a reconsideration of that decision."
 
Meanwhile, Pilgrim is embroiled in a labor dispute that has resulted in a lockout. Unionized plant workers were also at the rally to protest Entergy management.
 
Kelly O’Brien, a locked-out engineer at Pilgrim, said the replacement workers weren't qualified to run the plant, potentially compromising public safety.
 
"The fact of the matter is, you look at the people here, the majority of us have anywhere from 20 to 40 years of experience in that plant," he said. "The workers that are coming in would not be familiar as well as we are with respect to the intricacies of what that plant is and how it's operated."
 
As for the safety question, he said, "The safety of the plant — well, when we're there we're keeping an eye on it."
 
About 20 protesters attended the rally.

From Food to Fuel

By Toni Waterman   |   Tuesday, May 29, 2012
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May 30, 2012

 
RUTLAND, Mass. — When Randy Jordan was in high school, his family’s dairy farm was one of 640 in the state. Now, a generation later, there are only 200 still operating in Massachusetts.
 
“Farmers aren’t going out of business because they're dying or — geesh, there’s better opportunities. They’re going out of business because they can’t afford to stay in business,” said Jordan.
 
Jordan said one of his biggest budget busters was his electric bill: $2,400 a month to keep his 300 cows milked and his 1,000 acres of corn and hay growing. He had to cut costs. And his cows were the answer.
 
“The average cow poops about 18 gallons of manure and pee a day — a lot!” said Jordan. “And there’s nothing but methane in it.”
 
The cow as energy source
 
Methane gas has huge energy potential. So 2 years ago, Jordan partnered with Shannon Carroll of AGreen Energy to build the state’s first facility that converts food waste and manure into electricity.

Read More

Commission Relicenses Controversial Nuclear Plant

By Cristina Quinn & Sean Corcoran   |   Friday, May 25, 2012
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May 25, 2012
 
BOSTON — Advocates are objecting to the relicensing of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, Mass.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Friday that it had voted to renew Pilgrim’s license for another 20 years. The license was set to expire on June 8.

Mary Lampert, director of the anti-nuclear group Pilgrim Watch, said the NRC is not doing its job.

"One likes to think that especially after Fukushima, that NRC would have taken it seriously and decided to regulate, decided to listen to serious concerns, but apparently not. All that matters is rubber-stamp the license, get it over with and see what happens," she said.

Pine DuBois of the Jones River Watershed Association in Kingston, Mass., said the nuclear plant should be shuttered.

“You know, I didn’t get into this area until 1975. But when I came here, there was a certain expectation, and that expectation was that this nuclear facility had a 20-year operating license and it might get another 20 years. Well you know what? That 40 years is up. The Pilgrim plant has been operating long enough and it is time to decommission it,” she said.

Attorney General Martha Coakley had sought additional hearings, citing unaddressed safety concerns about the facility.

"Essentially the commission was satisfied that all the appropriate reviews had been conducted," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. "All told, the NRC license renewal staff devoted about 14,600 hours of review to this application. So, the bottom line is this application has received an enormous amount of scrutiny form the NRC during the 6 1/2 years it's been under review."

Lampert said Pilgrim Watch will appeal the vote and pursue legal action in other areas as well.
 
The five-member commission voted 3-1 in favor of relicensing, with outgoing chairman Gregory Jaczko as the sole dissenter. The NRC has never rejected a license renewal application of a nuclear plant.

Community Comes out for Cape Wind Hearing

By Sean Corcoran   |   Thursday, May 24, 2012
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May 24, 2012


cape wind

An artist's rendering of the Cape Wind project. (Courtesy)


BARNSTABLE, Mass. — State energy regulators visited Barnstable the evening of May 23 to hear Cape Codders — and others — talk about NStar's proposal to buy and sell more than a quarter of the electricity anticipated from the Cape Wind project — the 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound.
 
More than 125 people attended the public hearing about the merits of a 15-year contract that would have NStar buy nearly 28 percent of Cape Wind's power.
 
NStar would pay about 19 cents per kilowatt hour — more than double the current market price. The utility says the increase works out to about $1.08 more per month for the average residential customer.
 
The wind farm supporters

Cape Wind hearing
Advocates gather outside the Cape Wind hearing. (Sean Corcoran/WGBH)

Falmouth resident Bill Eddy said it's a price he's willing to pay for renewable energy.
 
"Every single one of my living costs has increased dramatically over the years," Eddy said. "I'm paying more for food, for gas, for just the insurance on my home. Paying $12 more a year for changing how America looks at its energy future seems to be a small price to pay."
 
Falmouth resident and Boston College student Annie Myer, 19, said she's been hearing about Cape Wind since she was 10 years old, and she's ready to see the turbines in the water.
 
"I will look at the turbines and smile," Myer said, "because though they are man-made, they harness renewable resources, and that's where our brighter future lies."
 
The opposing view
 
While supporters testified that Cape Wind would provide emissions-free electricity and reduce America's reliance on fossil fuels, opponents such as David Moriarty said it would jeopardize the Cape's two primary industries: fishing and tourism.
 
"This is no joke," he said. "This is our economic engine. This is the only thing we have to support our families. Do you understand that? This is our livelihood. This is everything. That is why we fight so hard for this."
 
Cape Wind received federal approval in April 2010, but it's had some setbacks. Last year a federal judge tossed out a permit from the Federal Aviation Administration, ordering regulators to take another look at the project's potential impact on air traffic. The project also failed to receive a federal loan guarantee, which could make it more difficult to attract investors.
 
Still, Cape Wind officials expect construction to begin by early next year, and they say having NStar and National Grid both on board to buy Cape Wind power is a significant step toward having turbines spinning in Nantucket Sound.
 

Melting Glaciers Warn of Global Warming

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
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April 10, 2012

glacier

Glacier National Park 2011 (karynsig/Flickr)



Professor Lonnie Thompson is a paleoclimatologist at Ohio State University. He and his wife study ice core samples to determine the impact of climate change. Called the Paul Revere of glacier melt, Thompson warns, "The ongoing widespread melting of high-elevation glaciers and ice caps, particularly in low to middle latitudes, provides some of the strongest evidence to date that a large-scale, pervasive, and, in some cases, rapid change in Earth’s climate system is underway."

Watch a video of a glacier melting, posted by the Extreme Ice Survey, and see how it was made.

State Aims to Slow Nuclear Plant Relicensing

By Jordan Weinstein   |   Friday, April 6, 2012
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April 6, 2012

pilgrim nuclear

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant's current license expires this year. (Courtesy of Entergy)

 
BOSTON — Attorney General Martha Coakley has filed an appeal challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's decision to go ahead with hearings to grant a new 20-year license extension for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth.
 
> > WGBH NEWS SPECIAL COVERAGE: Power Struggle: The Fight over Pilgrim Nuclear
 
Coakley said an independent expert has concluded that the risks of operating Pilgrim are greater than originally thought and that certain improvements should be made to the plant before a new license is granted. “There should be better and longer backup power systems, or there should be instrumentation to verify the cooling systems are functioning properly. Or to make sure there are improved valves and containment to reduce pressure on the reactor,” she said.
 
The goal, Coakley said, is to guarantee that the NRC considers the environmental and public safety implications of the 2011 Fukushima accident while allowing a meaningful opportunity for public comment.
 
State Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich) agreed, saying that lessons learned from Fukushima should be explored in an open, public process and applied to the Pilgrim relicensing process, particularly in regards to on-site storage of spent nuclear fuel rods.
 
The appeal was filed on April 4 in the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

> > READ: More from Coakley's office on Pilgrim

About the Authors
Jordan Weinstein Jordan Weinstein
Jordan Weinstein is a news anchor for NPR's All Things Considered on WGBH, 89.7 FM in Boston.

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