State drops objections to Pilgrim’s license transfer

June 19, 2020, 1:25PMRadwaste Solutions

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on June 17 that the state has agreed to withdraw its petitions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission against the transfer of Pilgrim’s license to Holtec International for decommissioning. The settlement agreement, signed between Massachusetts and Holtec subsidiaries Holtec Pilgrim and Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI), also resolves two lawsuits the state filed to challenge the NRC’s approval of the license transfer application as well as several administrative challenges Holtec filed to contest conditions in the January 2020 state water permit for the plant.

In return, Holtec has agreed to provide additional decommissioning trust fund obligations along with stricter radiological cleanup limits and additional site monitoring and oversight.

Terms of agreement: Financially, Holtec is being required to maintain at least $193 million in Pilgrim’s decommissioning trust fund throughout the cleanup process, up until the NRC approves the plant for partial site release. After that point, Holtec will need to maintain $38.4 million in funds until Pilgrim’s spent nuclear fuel is removed from the site. According to the state, the $193 million will ensure funds are available to cover future cost increases and unforeseen contingencies such as project delays and newly discovered contamination, and the $38.4 million will ensure that funds are available to cover the costs to transport the spent fuel out of state and to clean up Pilgrim’s independent spent fuel storage installation. Holtec is also required to obtain $30 million in pollution liability insurance and secure performance bonds for certain contracts.

To satisfy cleanup requirements, the agreement calls for Holtec to work with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (Mass DEP) and Department of Public Health (DPH) in complying with the state’s cleanup standards regarding radiological and nonradiological hazardous materials. Mass DEP and DPH will oversee cleanup work, and the agreement secures future funding for DPH for monitoring air and food sources outside of the plant’s boundaries for any off-site radiological contamination.

The agreement also includes emergency preparedness requirements, with Holtec obligated to provide information and funding to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to perform certain emergency preparedness functions in line with site risks.

What they’re saying: “I’m pleased we were able to work with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to find common ground that provides Holtec the certainty needed to safely complete decommissioning on the projected timeline,” said Pam Cowan, chief operating officer of HDI. “Our commitment to be a good neighbor and our shared goal of protecting the health and safety of our workers, the community, and the environment were clear drivers for both parties that led to this agreement.”

Attorney General Healy said, “Since the beginning of this proposed transfer, we have prioritized the health, safety, and other important interests of our residents and taken steps to ensure that the local community and environment are protected. This agreement provides critical protections, includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements, and secures the funds necessary to safely and properly clean up this site. We are grateful for the partnership with the governor’s office and our state agencies to establish this clear framework and oversight that will be needed to complete this work safely.”

Background: The NRC approved the sale and transfer of Pilgrim’s license from plant owner Entergy to Holtec on August 22, 2019. A single-unit 688-MWe boiling water reactor located in Plymouth, Mass., Pilgrim permanently ceased operations in May 2019. As part of the sale, Holtec Pilgrim assumed ownership of the site, real property, and spent nuclear fuel, while HDI is the license holder and decommissioning operator.

Massachusetts, along with the antinuclear group Pilgrim Watch, petitioned to block Pilgrim’s license transfer, citing concerns with health, safety, and financial risks. NRC staff approved the license transfer while those petitions were still under consideration. Pilgrim Watch’s challenges to the license transfer remain before the NRC.

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