Cape Cod and Plymouth residents pleaded with lawmakers to widen the radius for nuclear power plant emergency measures from 10 to 20 miles, saying they feel unprotected in the event of an accident at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant.
Citing the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Japan, local residents said they need the level of protection provided under the legislation (H 2045).
Holding our breath and hoping that nothing goes wrong
"We are just holding our breath and hoping that nothing goes wrong," Arlene Williamson, a member of the Pilgrim Coalition, told lawmakers on the Public Health Committee Tuesday.
William Marr, a Falmouth resident, said he feels Cape Cod residents have been "cheated" by not having more communities covered by emergency plans.
Evacuating Cape Cod is not feasible
"Evacuating Cape Cod is not a feasible solution," Marr said.
Tom Joyce, legislative counsel to Entergy Corp., which owns Pilgrim, said the push to increase the emergency planning zone from 10 to 20 miles is "nothing short of an attempt to close the nuclear power station."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission last year granted Entergy another 20-year-license to continue operations at the 40-year-old facility located in Plymouth. Opposition sprouted up around the Cape to the fight the relicensing.
Joyce said the plant underwent a six-year relicensing process and argued the NRC would not have renewed the license if it had any concerns. He said it was an unfair to compare Pilgrim to the facility in Fukushima.
The protection zone expansion bills cosponsors include Sen. Dan Wolf (D-Harwich), Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Duxbury), Rep. Tim Madden (D-Nantucket), Rep. Thomas Calter (D-Kingston), and Rep. Brian Mannal (D-Barnstable).
Rep. Sarah Peake filled two bills
Another bill (H 2046) under consideration by the committee would give the Department of Public Health funding to expand real time radiological air monitoring. Both bills were filed by Rep. Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat.
Joyce said both bills run counter to federal laws.
Rep. Cleon Turner asks "Why wouldn't Entergy just do it?"
Rep. Cleon Turner, a Democrat from Dennis, questioned why Entergy did not voluntarily make the changes residents were looking for.
"I believe very strongly that Entergy is not a good neighbor," Turner, a member of the committee, said during the hearing. "If Entergy was a good neighbor, it would say 'Okay, regulations are regulations. But we have our neighbors who have an issue with us. We can address that issue.' "
"Why wouldn't Entergy just do it?" Turner asked Joyce.
Joyce responded that the company spends $2.5 million annually for emergency preparations within the 10-mile zone. By asking the zone to be enlarged to 20 miles, "you are suggesting that the zone ought to be four or five times as big geographically," he said.
Christopher Sherman, director of regulatory affairs for Next Era Energy Resources, which operates Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire, said the proposed legislation really falls under the jurisdiction of the NRC, and added his company disagrees with the need to extend emergency preparations up to 20 miles.
It only takes one Fukushima
"You said you never had a radiological incident, and I would guess Fukushima didn't either until . . . it only takes one," Turner said.
Under the legislation increasing the emergency zone, the Department of Public Health would stockpile thyroid-blocking agents for cities and towns located within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Predetermined protective action plans, including sheltering and evacuation details, shall also be in place.
Read the rest of our stories about Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant here.