FED. ENVIRONMENTAL & PUBLIC WORKS SUBCOMMITTEE HOSTS HEARING ON NUCLEAR DECOMMISSIONING IN PLYMOUTH
Updated: May 9
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2022
CONTACT: Ben Kaplan, Communications Director, Office of Senator Susan L. Moran Benjamin.Kaplan@MAsenate.gov
FEDERAL ENVIRONMENTAL & PUBLIC WORKS SUBCOMMITTEE HOSTS HEARING ON NUCLEAR DECOMMISSIONING IN PLYMOUTH
State and federal officials express concerns regarding public transparency and accountability throughout the regulatory process.
(May 6, 2022 – PLYMOUTH) On Friday, Senator Susan L. Moran (D-Barnstable & Plymouth) participated as a panelist as part of a subcommittee field hearing hosted by Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate and Nuclear Safety and Congressman Bill Keating (D-Mass) on policies relative to the decommissioning of nuclear plants.
The hearing comes as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to amend its regulations that relate to the dismantling of nuclear production and utilization facilities. The Commission recently extended the public comment period on its proposed regulations until August. Seeking input on the specifics of how the proposed regulatory changes would impact the process and the role of local stakeholders, the Subcommittee requested the presence of John Lubinski, NRC’s Director of the Office of Nuclear Material Safety & Safeguards, and Krisnah Singh, President & CEO of Holtec International, the company managing the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.
The Committee sharply questioned the NRC’s ability to effectively assert its oversight authority when it came to ensuring companies meet regulatory safeguards regarding environmental testing and community engagement. Specifically, the Committee criticized the proposed regulations and asked they be redrafted to correct the fact that currently no benchmarks exist during the process, essentially giving companies “free-reign” until they submit the final report and it is too late for municipalities to respond.
Senator Moran offered testimony alongside Attorney Seth Schofield of the Office of Attorney General Maura Healey, as well as Geoffrey Fettus of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who have been closely monitoring the Pilgrim Nuclear situation. Moran, leading the Plymouth and Cape delegation, related constituents’ concerns with potential impacts from the station’s decommissioning that would compromise the region’s water supply and the safety of residents. The panel expressed doubts regarding Holtec’s openness, clarity, and reliability, and asked that the NRC prioritize the input of local stakeholders in any changes made to their regulations. Fettus faulted the NRC for enabling this lack of transparency, asserting that the entire proposal should be redrawn and redrafted in stronger terms.
Senator Moran also reiterated concerns shared in a recently submitted letter from the Cape Delegation to the Subcommittee requesting sufficient funds to ensure proper oversight and monitoring of decommissioned facilities, as well as reforms for local municipalities’ participation in emergency planning and preparedness.
Ultimately, the subcommittee was able to secure a tentative agreement from Holtec to allow additional testing of wastewater by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, though CEO Singh would not commit to alternative disposal of the estimated one million gallons, alleging that dumping would only with the concurrence of local stakeholders.
“It is our duty as legislators to elevate the voices of those who we represent, and the public is clearly calling for answers that Holtec has been reluctant to provide. We are not asking for much; simply for a transparent relationship as this process moves forward and assurances that the necessary steps are taken to meet our public health priorities,” Senator Moran said. “Furthermore, not only will the NRC rule proposal impact the outcome of our situation here in Plymouth, but it will also have ramifications for the many other communities across the country in similar circumstances. I want to thank Senator Markey and Congressman Keating again for recognizing the importance of this open dialogue.”
“We will hold Holtec accountable for their commitment to the communities that surround Pilgrim [NPS], and we will work to ensure that the NRC upholds its responsibility to be a watchdog on the decommissioning process,” Senator Markey said. “Over the years, communities with decommissioned nuclear power plants have repeatedly called on the Commission to be a good partner and for nuclear companies to be good neighbors. Today’s hearing is notice to both that we will not allow these responsibilities to go unmet any longer.”
“Friday’s hearing cemented what we already knew: that the NRC has given too much leeway to licensees. The government is entrusted with the regulation of nuclear energy as well as the environmental impacts that energy has on our communities,” Congressman Keating said. “It’s clear, however, that the community has been left out of this process; yet they are the ones that will feel the impacts for generations from this plant being here and the ones who are paying for decommissioning. The NRC confirmed on Friday that trucking away the waste is a viable alternative to dumping water in Cape Cod Bay. Frankly, it is not an alternative, but the only proper course of action.”
Full testimony submitted by Senator Moran
Letter of concern submitted by the Cape Cod Legislative Delegation to the federal subcommittee