Pilgrim shutdown ends nuclear power era in Mass.

  • Warning signs are posted near a gate to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. The operators of the nuclear plant performed a simulated shutdown at a training facility several miles from the reactor Tuesday, in advance of the actual shutdown of the aging reactor planned for Friday, May 31. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Control Room Supervisor Bob Sheridan, of Duxbury, Mass., front, focuses on a screen during a simulated reactor shutdown Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in the Control Room Simulator at a training facility several miles from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass. The simulated shutdown was performed in front of members of the media ahead of the planned actual shutdown of the aging reactor on Friday, May 31. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Control Room Supervisor Bob Sheridan, of Duxbury, Mass., left, and Senior Reactor Operator Kelly Connerton, of Middleborough, Mass., center, stand together in the Control Room Simulator moments before a simulated reactor shutdown, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at a training facility several miles from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass. The simulated shutdown was performed in front of members of the media ahead of the planned actual shutdown of the aging reactor on Friday, May 31. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Senior Reactor Operator Christina Renaud, left, speaks with Training Supervisor Paul Gresh, center, and Control Room Supervisor Bob Sheridan, right, in the Control Room Simulator moments before a simulated reactor shutdown, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, at a training facility several miles from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass. The simulated shutdown was performed in front of members of the media Tuesday ahead of the planned actual shutdown of the aging reactor on Friday, May 31. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • A sign featuring an Entergy Corp. logo is attached to a sign near a gate to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, in Plymouth, Mass., Tuesday, May 28, 2019. The operators of the nuclear plant performed a simulated shutdown at a training facility several miles from the reactor Tuesday, in advance of the actual shutdown of the aging reactor planned for Friday, May 31. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

Associated Press
Published: 5/31/2019 11:42:02 PM

PLYMOUTH — The Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth has permanently shut down after 47 years of generating electricity, bring to a close the era of nuclear power in Massachusetts.

The final shutdown occurred at 5:28 p.m. Friday.

Entergy announced in 2015 it would retire Massachusetts’ only remaining reactor, citing competition from less expensive energy sources.

Entergy had said the shutdown would take about five hours with technicians first reducing Pilgrim’s power output from the 40% to 26% to about 8%, before launching the final step of inserting control rods into the fuel assembly to seal off further nuclear reactions.

The focus now turns to the daunting task of cleaning up and dismantling the plant. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing Entergy’s proposal to sell Pilgrim to a private nuclear waste management firm that promises a speedier decommissioning.

The closing leaves Seabrook in New Hampshire and Millstone in Connecticut as New England’s only still-operating commercial nuclear plants.

A closer look at Pilgrim’s shutdown:

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR REGIONAL ENERGY SUPPLIES?

Pilgrim’s retirement and the loss of its 680 megawatts of power aren’t likely to disrupt overall regional energy supplies or the reliability of the electrical grid, according to experts.

ISO-New England, which operates the region’s bulk power system, says three new power plants that can burn either natural gas or oil will be online by this summer and several small solar facilities and a new wind farm will also help absorb the impact.

“We’ve actually seen more megawatts coming in than the megawatts of Pilgrim that are leaving,” said Anne George, a vice president for ISO.

The shutdown could result in a short-term increase in carbon emissions because of the greater reliance on the gas and oil-burning plants, she added, though longer range trends point to growth in cleaner, renewable energy sources.

It’s unclear whether Pilgrim’s closing could affect consumer prices. George noted that nuclear power generally enters the electricity market at lower prices than most other fuels.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

It’s far from certain how decommissioning will unfold.

Entergy announced plans last year to sell Pilgrim, along with several other retiring U.S. reactors, to Holtec International for decommissioning. The deals are awaiting NRC approval.

Holtec is promising an aggressive schedule for cleaning up and removing the physical plant within eight years at an estimated cost of $1.1 billion. Absent the sale, Entergy would place Pilgrim into so-called “safe storage” mode under a $1.6 billion decommissioning plan that could last up to 60 years.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has raised several concerns about the proposed sale and has requested NRC hold public hearings before signing off.

Holtec has never owned a commercial nuclear plant.

WHERE DOES
RADIOACTIVE FUEL GO?

Pilgrim’s more than 4,000 spent fuel rod assemblies will initially be placed in “wet storage” — essentially large pools of water where the superhot fuel is cooled for at least two years.

Next comes the “dry storage” phase: The spent fuel is transferred into giant metal and concrete-reinforced cylinders that stay at the site unless or until a national nuclear waste storage facility is created.

WHO PAYS FOR
DECOMMISSIONING?

U.S. reactors are required to maintain decommissioning trust funds to cover the facilities’ eventual decontamination and dismantling.

Public records show Pilgrim’s fund was most recently valued at just over $1 billion.

Unused portions of the fund can continue to grow during decommissioning, but it’s unclear what might happen should the money run out before the job is complete. Holtec has offered assurances it has financial resources to cover unexpected delays or cost overruns.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy