Power Struggle: The Future of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant

By Sean Corcoran

With the end of its 40-year license approaching in 2012, the owners of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth have applied for a 20-year extension. But opponents of the plant, including some local and state politicians, question the reactor's safety after three sister reactors in Japan experienced explosions and likely meltdowns this past year. There also is the lingering issue of a tightly packed spent-fuel storage pool at Pilgrim. Finally, there are concerns about the fact that hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors on Cape Cod would have nowhere to go in the event of an emergency. This WCAI three-part series looks at these issues and others, while discussing how the context for plant relicensing has changed in light of the ongoing crises at Fukushima in Japan.

Part 1: Relicensing Pilgrim Nuclear (sound + transcript + extras)
Credit: Entergy Corp LISTEN

The owners of the Plymouth Nuclear Power Station are asking for it to be relicensed for another 20 years of service. But the landscape surrounding nuclear power has changed since the disaster in Fukushima, Japan. As regulators consider the request, the debate in the community is heating up.

Part 2: Burning Out On Fuel Rods  (sound + transcript + extras)
Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch LISTEN

Pilgrim, about 3,000 spent fuel rods now sit in a pool of water designed more than 40 years ago to hold only one-third that amount. In Fukushima, spent rods placed in what's called "dry cask storage" fared well during the disaster and were safe, while some rods in “wet pools” melted down. Politicians and activists want Pilgrim's spent rods placed in dry storage, thereby reducing the risk. But it is expensive, and so far the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not required it. 

Part Three: The Emergency Plan Pilgrim radiation map(sound + transcript + extras)


Mary Lampert, the head of the primary Pilgrim opposition group, offered to drop her opposition if plant owner Entergy would install a real-time monitoring system for radiation in nearby towns. Instead, Entergy and Lampert have been in a legal battle. Meanwhile, officials say there is no plan for how Cape Cod could be evacuated in the event of a radiation release.

WCAI SPECIAL: The Point with Mindy Todd Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Mindy Todd and Sean Corcoran discuss WCAI's 3-part series Power Struggle: The Future of Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in depth and take listener phone calls.

Extended Audio
(each interview is 10 minutes long)

Pilgrim licensing manager Joseph Lynch (right-click to download the mp3)
Sen. Dan Wolf of the Cape and islands (right-click to download the mp3)

Janet Domenitz of MassPIRG (right-click to download the mp3)

Joyce McMahon, Director of Communications, Massachusetts Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (right-click to download the mp3)