Text of Letter (PDF)

Boston (November 2, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, today led his colleagues Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Bill Keating (MA-09) in calling on Holtec Decommissioning International to publicly commit to abide by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations and not discharge any effluent water from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into Cape Cod Bay that would violate Holtec’s existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. In a letter sent on June 17, 2022, the EPA instructed Holtec that any discharge of wastewater from Pilgrim without EPA authorization and a permit modification would violate the terms of its agreement and subject Holtec to civil, judicial, and administrative penalties. Since receiving that guidance, Holtec has failed to publicly affirm its understanding of the regulations.

“We are concerned that Holtec has not yet publicly responded to EPA’s June 17, 2022 letter, which sought to correct Holtec’s ‘new alternative interpretation’ — that is, its misinterpretation — of the permit, an interpretation that that would purportedly allow for a waste water discharge without a permit modification,” the lawmakers write in their letter to Holtec. “To provide clarity to our offices, local residents, and the many businesses and organizations that rely on Cape Cod Bay’s reputation for clean and safe water, we ask that Holtec confirm publicly as soon as possible that it will not discharge any Pilgrim wastewater without first obtaining the EPA’s authorization and the necessary permit modification.”

Additionally, in light of the release of new data regarding wastewater stored at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth last week – which provided preliminary baseline data for non-radiological priority pollutants – Senator Markey reiterated the need for Holtec to publicly commit to obeying existing requirements for the safe management and discharge of its plant’s wastewater.

In response to the wastewater data, Senator Markey said, “In order to know how to safely manage the more than one million gallons of radioactive water stored at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, we must first know what’s in it. I appreciate the EPA and Holtec sharing these important, preliminary data with the public, and I trust the EPA and its state counterparts to properly assess these test results. According to our regulators, Holtec is not legally allowed to discharge this water into Cape Cod Bay without modifying Pilgrim’s current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, a process that would involve extensive EPA review and public participation. Given that Holtec has not yet publicly responded to an EPA letter from earlier this June—in which the EPA reiterated Holtec’s requirements under the NPDES permit and the need for a modification to discharge water—I am calling on the company to publicly commit to obeying its permit requirements.”

Since the news broke in December 2021 that Holtec was considering discharging more than one millions gallons of radioactive water from Pilgrim into the Cape Cod Bay, Senator Markey has worked with Senator Warren, Congressman Keating, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the EPA, and state agencies to ensure there is no unsafe discharge into the bay.

In May 6, 2022, Senator Markey hosted a subcommittee field hearing in Plymouth, Massachusetts with Congressman Keating titled Issues Facing Communities with Decommissioning Nuclear Plants. During the hearing, Senator Markey secured commitments from Holtec that it would not discharge any radioactive, contaminated water into Cape Cod Bay from the plant without the consent of stakeholders. He also secured a commitment from Holtec that it would work with an independent body with marine experience to test the water, that it would provide a financial backstop to ensure full decommission and clean-up of the plant site, and it would meet with union representatives from the Laborers, Ironworkers, Carpenters, IBEW, and Operating Engineers regarding an ongoing labor dispute. 

Since then, Senator Markey has worked to ensure that Holtec meets its commitments, including to work with independent experts to analyze Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool water and the potential impacts of a discharge of radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay. As part of his efforts to ensure that transparency and collaboration, Senator Markey secured further commitments from Holtec that it would allow the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to both be present for the sampling of Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool water and allowed to conduct testing and analysis on split samples of the water. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has stated that it is willing and able to do both be present for sampling of the water and conduct testing on split samples from Holtec.

In January, Senators Markey and Warren and Representatives Keating and Moulton (MA-06) sent a letter to Holtec expressing opposition to the proposed discharge of waste water from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into Cape Cod Bay.