Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool was designed to hold 880 fuel assemblies, but today it holds more than 3,300 – nearly four times that number


Washington (April 25, 2018) – As Massachusetts continues to rebuild and recover from devastating winter storms that caused severe flooding and damage to coastal towns, Senator Markey today called on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to explain how climate change and associated environmental threats are being considered in ensuring the safety of spent nuclear fuel at decommissioned nuclear sites. Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts is slated to decommission next year. A recent The Boston Globe story reported that Pilgrim plans to store its spent radioactive nuclear fuel in more than 60 dry casks in an area just 200 feet from the Plymouth Bay shoreline and only 25 feet above sea level.


“As plants like Pilgrim shutter across the nation and plan to store spent nuclear fuel on site for years – even decades – to come, it is imperative that these plants and the NRC regulations fully consider the impacts of climate change on dangerous nuclear waste,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to NRC Chairman Kristine Svinciki. “Residents living near the Pilgrim site are concerned that Entergy Corp., the corporation that owns Pilgrim, and the NRC are not taking climate change, flooding, and other environmental threats into sufficient consideration when evaluation the safety of spent nuclear fuel stored onsite at the plant.”


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter can be found HERE.


In his letter, Senator Markey asks the NRC to response to questions that include:

  • What is the protocol for continual monitoring of spent fuel sites?
  • How is climate change being integrated into the protocol for monitoring spent fuel sites and into regulations governing decommissioned plants?
  • What research has the NRC done on possible corrosion of the casks by exposure to water?
  • Because Pilgrim received an exemption from the seismic probabilistic risk assessment, how is the NRC assured that the dry casks will be safe from seismic activity?


The Dry Cask Storage Act, introduced most recently in 2017 by Senator Markey, and co-sponsored by Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would ensure that every nuclear reactor operator complies with an NRC-approved plan that would require the safe removal of spent nuclear fuel from the spent fuel pools and place that spent fuel into dry cask storage within seven years of the time the plan is submitted to the NRC. The legislation also provides funding to help reactor licensees implement the plans and expands the emergency planning zone for non-compliant reactor operators to from ten to 50 miles. In September 2013, Senator Markey urged the NRC to revise its spent-fuel storage risk assessment, in light of its deeply flawed methodology, and to reconsider expedited transfer of spent nuclear fuel to dry casks.