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What to do with closed Massachusetts nuclear plant’s wastewater?

Columbian, By Jennifer McDermott, Associated Press April 9, 2022,

1 million gallons of radioactive water could be discharged into bay, evaporated or trucked elsewhere

One million gallons of radioactive water is inside a former nuclear power plant along Cape Cod Bay, and it has got to go.

But where? And will the state intervene as the company dismantling the plant decides? These are the vexing questions.

Holtec International is considering treating the water and discharging it into the bay, drawing fierce resistance from local residents, shell fishermen and politicians. Holtec is also considering evaporating the contaminated water or trucking it to a facility in another state.

The fight in Massachusetts mirrors a current, heated debate in Japan over a plan to release more than 1 million tons of treated radioactive wastewater into the ocean from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in spring 2023. A massive tsunami in 2011 crashed into the plant. Three reactors melted down.

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., closed in 2019 after nearly half a century providing electricity to the region. U.S. Rep. William Keating, a Democrat whose district includes the Cape, wrote to Holtec with other top Massachusetts lawmakers in January to oppose releasing water into Cape Cod Bay. He asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to examine its regulations.

Keating said in late March that Holtec’s handling of the radioactive water could set a precedent because the U.S. decommissioning industry is in its infancy. Most U.S. nuclear plants were built between 1970 and 1990.

Holtec has acquired closed nuclear plants across the country as part of its dismantling business, including the former Oyster Creek Generating Station in New Jersey and Indian Point Energy Center in New York. It’s taking ownership of the Palisades Nuclear Plant on Lake Michigan, which is closing this year.

Pilgrim was a boiling-water reactor. Water constantly circulated through the reactor vessel and nuclear fuel, converting it to steam to spin the turbine. The water was cooled and recirculated, picking up radioactive contamination.

Cape Cod is a tourist hotspot. Having radioactive water in the bay, even low levels, isn’t great for marketing, said Democratic state Rep. Josh Cutler, who represents a district there. Cutler is working to pass legislation to prohibit discharging radioactive material into coastal or inland waters……………….

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, another boiling-water reactor, was shut down in Vernon, Vt., in 2014. It’s sending wastewater to disposal specialists in Texas and other states. Entergy operated and sold both Vermont Yankee and Pilgrim. NorthStar, a separate and competing corporation in the decommissioning business, is dismantling Vermont Yankee……………………

Why are people worried?

In Duxbury, Kingston and Plymouth Bays, there are 50 oyster farms — the largest concentration in the state, worth $5.1 million last year, according to the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative. The collaborative said dumping the water would devastate the industry, and the local economy along with it……………..

Towns on the Cape are trying to prohibit the dispersal of radioactive materials in their waters. Tribal leaders, fishermen, lobstermen and real estate agents have publicly stated their opposition as well…………….

Who gets the final say?

Holtec wouldn’t need a separate approval from the NRC to discharge the water into the bay. However, Holtec would need permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if the water contained pollutants regulated by the Clean Water Act, such as dissolved metals.

If the water contained only radioactive materials regulated by the NRC, Holtec wouldn’t need to ask the EPA for a permit modification, according to the EPA’s water division for New England. Holtec has never given the EPA a pollutant characterization of the water associated with decommissioning, the division’s director said.

Mary Lampert, of Duxbury, is on a panel created by the state to look at issues related to Pilgrim’s decommissioning. She believes the state could use its existing laws and regulations to stop the dumping and plans to press the Massachusetts attorney general to file a preliminary injunction to do so.

The attorney general’s office said it’s monitoring the issue and would take any Clean Water Act violations seriously.

Mary Lampert, of Duxbury, is on a panel created by the state to look at issues related to Pilgrim’s decommissioning. She believes the state could use its existing laws and regulations to stop the dumping and plans to press the Massachusetts attorney general to file a preliminary injunction to do so.

The attorney general’s office said it’s monitoring the issue and would take any Clean Water Act violations seriously. https://www.columbian.com/news/2022/apr/09/what-to-do-with-closed-massachusetts-nuclear-plants-wastewater/

April 11, 2022 - Posted by | USA, wastes, water

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