Sparks fly at first meeting of Pilgrim Station decommissioning panel

A row of people on a stage.

The 19 members of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

The first meeting of the advisory panel charged  with advising the Governor and the Legislature on the decommissioning of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station started snippy and ended sloppily.

With 19 members appointed by a variety of state and local officials, there was certain to be some disagreement as the panel met Wednesday night at Plymouth South High School and it quickly showed during questioning of a presentation by Joe Lynch, Pilgrim’s manager of government affairs, on how the plant’s shutdown might proceed.

Jones River Watershed Association President Pine Dubois, appointed to the panel by House Speaker Robert DeLeo asked Lynch about the safety of the eight concrete encased casks holding spent nuclear fuel on the grounds of the plant. DuBois asked Lynch for a commitment from Entergy to get the casks, and the ones that will be added, further from Cape Cod Bay. Lynch replied that the casks were “safe under regulations,” to which DuBois replied “that’s what concerns me.”

Acting Chairman of the panel Angela O’Connor tried to cut off DuBois’ questioning, saying it was outside the scope of its responsibilities. DuBois argued otherwise, “since we have to make a recommendation, it is within the scope,” she said.

Things started to heat up when it was Mike Twomey, Entergy’s Vice-President for External Affairs and one of the company’s appointees panels got his turn to ask questions.  Instead he noted that the panel would be together for a long time and asked that members refrain from ad hominem attacks, a reference that seemed directed at DuBois. Those comments got a reaction from the audience several of whom fired back at Twomey when they got the chance.

Margaret Rice-Moir of Brewster called Twomey’s remarks “churlish.    We have every right and an obligation to talk about what we have seen and have been treated in running of the plant. We have every right to speak about it. If you don’t like it, I’m sorry.” Another speaker, Mary Constantino agreed, DuBois’ comments were not ad hominem, “we’re traumatized.”

The close of the meeting ended with tensions increasing between members of the panel. Plymouth resident Sean Mullin moved that it meet more than the four times required under law, noting that many organizational matters needed to be attended to, including the election of a permanent chairman. O’Connor said she wanted to table that motion. Plymouth resident Kevin O’Reilly, another of DiMassi’s appointees, then moved to hold the next meeting in four weeks. O’Connor insisted that it was impossible to schedule a meeting that night, citing state requirements.

Mullin then attempted to move the discussion to the appointment of a permanent chairman which O’Connor had said earlier she wanted to put off to a later meeting. Before any further discussion could happen she moved to adjourn, then, to a silent panel, she declared that the ayes had it and ended the meeting.

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