PLYMOUTH — The president of the company decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power plant has ruled out shipping a million gallons of radioactive water to a licensed disposal site, taking off the table the option that many members of the public have been lobbying for.
“The suggestion … to ship the water to another location for discharge runs counter to our basic tenets of environmental justice, which has led us to discard the idea,” wrote Holtec’s Kris Singh in a 10-page letter to U.S. Sen. Edward Markey last month following a May 6 hearing.
Markey’s office had not responded to a request for comment by the Independent’s deadline this week.
“Our estimate of the cost to foist Pilgrim’s water is approximately $20 million, 250 truckloads driving approximately 2,000 miles each way, over 125,000 gallons of diesel fuel burned and over 1,000 heavily load handling evolutions that will have to be performed by the plant’s crew,” Singh wrote.
Last November, Holtec announced its plan to release the water into Cape Cod Bay in batches of about 20,000 gallons. At least some of the radionuclides would be removed prior to release in order to meet the standards of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Holtec said.
An outcry from activists, government officials, and the fishing and tourist industries quickly followed, resulting in Holtec putting the plan on hold while it evaluated other disposal options. Holtec said it would announce its decision in the third or fourth quarter of this year.
In his letter to Markey, Singh again warned that storing the water onsite would delay the decommissioning and release of the property — which Plymouth officials are eager to see happen.
Singh described “vilifying the water as somehow inimical to the biological ecosystem” as similar to the “infamous Salem witch trials in the 18th century.” (Those trials occurred in the 17th century.) The fear being generated, he wrote, is based on perception, not reality.
“Chemically, [the processed water] would be more potable than the standard city water whence it came,” Singh wrote.
“Holtec’s excuses for not wanting to transport Pilgrim’s contaminated water to an out-of-state facility are pure hypocrisy,” said Mary Lampert, director of the activist group Pilgrim Watch and a member of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP). “Holtec happily transports thousands of tons of solid radioactive waste from Pilgrim and other plants it is decommissioning.”
The fate of the one million gallons is expected to be discussed at NDCAP’s July 25 meeting in Plymouth.
Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien said Singh had no comment beyond his letter.