NRC passes on Pilgrim Watch’s license petition

November 17, 2020, 6:56AMRadwaste Solutions

The Pilgrim nuclear power plant was shut down in May 2019. Photo: Entergy Energy

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied a request by the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch for a hearing in the transfer of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant’s license from Entergy to a subsidiary of Holtec International for decommissioning. The NRC commissioners issued the order denying Pilgrim Watch’s petition to intervene and request a hearing on November 12.

Pilgrim Watch submitted its petition against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license from Entergy to Holtec Decommissioning International in February 2019. The NRC staff, however, approved the transfer in August 2019, while the petition was still under review. NRC regulations allow staff to approve a license transfer under the condition that the commissioners may later move to “rescind, modify, or condition the approved transfer based on the outcome of any post-effectiveness hearing on the license transfer application.”

A separate petition against the license transfer submitted by the state of Massachusetts was withdrawn in June, following a settlement agreement between the state and Holtec.

Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. Holtec plans to decommission the plant (with the exception of the independent spent fuel storage installation) on an eight-year schedule to permit partial site release by the NRC.

The petition: In its petition, Pilgrim Watch challenged Holtec’s ability to finance the decommissioning of Pilgrim, a single-unit, 688-MWe boiling water reactor located in Plymouth, Mass. The group also argued that the transfer required an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Regarding Holtec’s financial assurances, the NRC found that Pilgrim Watch “has not raised a supported, admissible challenge warranting litigation on the plausibility of the current cost.” The NRC also found that current regulations do not require a NEPA analysis for Pilgrim’s decommissioning.

Dissenting opinions: Commissioner Jeff Baran dissented in the denial of Pilgrim Watch’s petition. “I would admit aspects of both Pilgrim Watch contentions and find that Pilgrim Watch has standing to pursue those contentions at a hearing,” he said.

Commissioner Christopher Hanson partially dissented to the NRC order, arguing that certain aspects of Pilgrim Watch’s contention regarding Holtec’s financial assurances should be heard.

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