NRC mustn’t renew license for Pilgrim nuclear plant

May 21, 2011

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THE 40-YEAR-OLD Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth is unsafe, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should reject its request to renew its license to continue operations for another 20 years (“Problems cited with nuclear backup power: Report comes as panel deems US sites safe,’’ Page A2, May 13).

When in 2010 the NRC recalculated the odds of catastrophic failure in each of the 104 US reactors, Pilgrim ranked second for risk of severe core damage. The Pilgrim reactor is the same General Electric Mark 1 design as five of the six Fukushima reactors, which are still, two months after the March 11 earthquake, emitting high levels of radiation into the groundwater, sea, and air.

Most significant, the Pilgrim plant’s highly radioactive spent fuel rods are stored in a pool of water at nearly four times the pool’s capacity. When the original design limit of 880 assemblies was exceeded, the NRC changed the rules to allow the same pool to have 3,859 assemblies. This storage pool is sensitive to a disastrous fire, but it isn’t considered in the NRC’s reviews for license renewal. The spent fuel pool at Pilgrim contains many times the radiation in Chernobyl, and a fire could contaminate an area three times the size of Massachusetts.

The NRC decisions on renewing licenses appear to be biased in favor of the power companies. The agency has approved every request — 66 in a row.

We need to speak up.

Carol Dwyer