Residents challenge Entergy's zoning permit

The proposed nuclear waste dump will store all of the radioactive fuel rods that Pilgrim has generated since 1972

Local residents challenge Entergy's zoning permit for nuclear waste storage at Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth

A group of local residents has appealed a Plymouth zoning permit granted to Entergy Nuclear Generating Corporation (Entergy).

The zoning permit, granted without any public hearing, gives Entergy the right to have a long-term high-level nuclear waste storage facility at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Pilgrim's operating license will expire in 2032.

The proposed nuclear waste dump will store all of the radioactive fuel rods that Pilgrim has generated since 1972, for many,many years after Pilgrim itself shuts down.

The appeal, filed with the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals on April 25, 2013, asks the ZBA to revoke the permit because the long-term, outdoor, dry cask storage of nuclear waste is not a "permitted use" under the Plymouth zoning laws, and because such storage also is not what the zoning permit calls an "accessory use."

The appeal also asks the ZBA to require Entergy to obtain a special permit. Under the special permit process, the ZBA can set conditions that will insure that the nuclear waste dump is built and operated as safely as possible; the special permit process also allows for public input.

Meg Sheehan, spokesperson for EcoLaw, a group of volunteer lawyers representing the residents, said, "We support dry cask storage, but think the residents of the area are entitled to the safest, most secure storage facility that can be built. Entergy apparently did not give critical facts to the Plymouth Director of Inspectional Services.

The real fact of the matter is that, without a special permit, Plymouth zoning does not allow long-term nuclear waste storage."Ms. Sheehan went on to point out that the 1967 special permit for Pilgrim did not allow either the construction or the long term operation of a nuclear waste storage facility.

That special permit was limited to "a nuclear-powered generating plant and associated buildings, roads, and transmission facilities"; and in requesting the special permit Pilgrim's original owner, Boston Edison, said "The project will not include a repair station or outside storage of supplies."

"Coincidentally," Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch commented, "in mid-April the NRC said that spent fuel storage cask structures and components were prematurely degrading from moisture and weathering, especially in marine environments, and pointed to the need for enhanced monitoring and adequate drainage.

A Special Permit would allow the Town to have a 'say' to assure that these measures, and more, are done to better protect both the public's and worker's health and safety."

"In the past," said Ms. Sheehan, "Pilgrim's owners have asked the ZBA for special permits when they wanted to make changes at Pilgrim. Why is Entergy now trying to avoid the special permit process and get away with doing the minimum possible? That's not OK."

The next step in the appeal process is for the Zoning Board to schedule a public hearing, which will be held in the next 2 to 3 months.

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