BOSTON – Federal regulators on Monday ruled in a decision blasted by the state’s two U.S. senators that the owners of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will not have to re-evaluate the risks of earthquakes and floods to the Plymouth nuclear plant or upgrade the vent system intended to prevent explosions in accident scenarios.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday granted an extension for Entergy, the company that owns and operates Pilgrim, to comply with regulations for the plant’s “reliable hardened containment vents capable of operation under severe accident conditions.”
The NRC also waived Entergy’s obligation to further study the risks of floods or earthquakes because it said that by the time the study could be finished and implemented, the nuclear plant will be closed.
Pilgrim is scheduled to shut down for good by May 31, 2019, but, citing the plant’s safety record and low rating by the NRC, critics of the plant have been repeatedly calling for it to close immediately.
U.S. Sen. Edward Markey blasted the NRC’s decisions Monday, arguing that allowing Pilgrim to avoid heightened safety measures “represents an abdication of (the NRC’s) role as a safety regulator.”
The “decision by the NRC undermines the safety of Massachusetts communities living in the shadow of Pilgrim,” Markey said in a statement. “When Entergy announced its intention to cease operations at Pilgrim, the NRC promised that it would hold Entergy responsible for running the plant as safely as possible until that time. By providing exemptions from requirements meant to address the risk of terrorist attacks or severe accidents such as natural disasters, the NRC has broken its promise.”
The hardened containment vent system, or HCVS. is intended to “avoid an overpressure condition involving the reactor containment building that could lead to a failure of that containment” and could result in a nuclear accident similar to the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, displeased with the ruling, said the NRC “continues to ignore the concerned voices of Massachusetts communities” in making its decisions.
“Pilgrim may be shutting down in 2019, but that date should have no bearing on Entergy’s – and the NRC’s – responsibility to ensure safe plant operations, each and every day,” Warren said in a statement. “The risks are too high to allow Entergy to stumble forward for the next two years and disregard investment in critical safety upgrades.”