Panel learns about the decommissioning options at Pilgrim Station

Despite some rancor between its members, the Nuclear Decommissioning CItizens Advisory Panel did learn something about how the shutdown of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station might proceed.

“The first step is to  have a plan,” Pilgrim’s Government Affairs Manager, Joe Lynch, told the panel. To that end, he said, a team will be formed at the plant to oversee decommissioning while the remainder of the staff will remain focused on operating it. The decommissioning team will be lead by John Ohrenberger, who is also one of Entergy’s representatives on the panel.

Entergy, Lynch said, has two options in how to proceed with closing Pilgrim Station. One, DECON, would result in the relatively quick removal of nuclear waste from the spent fuel pool followed by the decontamination and removal of the buildings on site. The other, SAFSTOR, the company would have up to 60 years for the buildings to become sufficiently decontaminated for them to be taken down.

When Pilgrim closes, Lynch said, about half the staff will be let go. Most of those who remain would be there due to the company’s obligations under its emergency plan.  A security staff would remain at the plant, though Entergy would likely outsource that work to an outside company, which is what they did at Vermont Yankee, Lynch said.

The cost of decommissioning, and how that might determine how Entergy proceeds, was a topic of interest to many of the panel members. According to Lynch, the fund, required by the Nuclear Regulatory  set aside for closing Pilgrim has $1 billion in it. The actual cost, however, will exceed that he said.

While he never said it outright, it became apparent that SAFSTOR was the more likely option for shut down. When asked by former State Senator Dan Wolf of Cape Cod how it would choose between the two options, Lynch said Entergy wouldn’t do DECON unless it has the money to do so. The shutdown cost of Vermont Yankee, Lynch said, was about $1.3 billion. That plant is being moved into SAFSTOR, according to the NRC.

Duxbury resident Jim Lampert, speaking during the public comment period, said the cost of nuclear decommissioning has risen 60 percent since 2008 and estimated the total cost for closing Pilgrim could reach  $1.5 billion, making a quick decommissioning unlikely. Mike Twomey, Entergy’s other representative on the panel said the choice between DECON and SAFSTOR had not been made. 

Panel members and the audience had a list of other concerns.

Who would actually own Pilgrim Station when it closes was one topic of interest. Entergy has agreed to sell Vermont Yankee to Northstar Group Services, which is expected to dismantle it much faster than originally planned. Northstar, along with Areva, has approached Entergy about doing the same thing in Plymouth, Lynch said. But, he noted, “it’s very much an exploratory process.”  Panel member Richard Grassie asked about staffing at Vermont Yankee under the new arrangement. According to Lynch, about 15 Vermont Yankee workers would be employed by Northstar while the remaining workforce there is a security team employed Securitas, an outside contractor.

Heather Lightner, one of the Plymouth Board of Selectmen’s representatives to the panel, asked that future dry cask storage containers be located further from the bay, a thought seconded by Duxbury Nuclear Affairs Chairman Mary Lampert, who also suggested having extra overpacks for the storage casks on site in case they crack. Lynch said the future location of the casks was not decided.

What is this?