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Entergy : NRC to approve Pilgrim license transfer

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08/14/2019 | 03:47am EDT

Aug. 14--PLYMOUTH -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff published a formal notification Tuesday announcing plans to approve the direct transfer of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station's operating license from Entergy Corp. to Holtec Decommissioning International "on or about Aug. 21."

The delay for five business days will "allow the Commission an opportunity to provide direction to the staff," according to NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The transfer is moving forward despite motions to intervene filed by the state attorney general's office and citizens group Pilgrim Watch.

The state attorney general's office also filed a recent request asking the NRC to put the license transfer review on hold for 90 days to allow state officials and the plant owner to reach a settlement agreement.

In the notice, the staff called the filings from the state and Pilgrim Watch a separate issue from the license transfer request. Those filings are still under review.

"Our office is disappointed in this NRC staff decision and is reviewing all available options to protect our residents and the interests of our state," Jillian Fennimore, spokeswoman for Attorney General Maura Healey, said via email. "We remain deeply concerned that this deal lacks sufficient funding to handle this closure and manage spent fuel on site, and will continue to push for adequate protections to ensure that Pilgrim is decommissioned safely."

Mary Lampert, director of Pilgrim Watch, said once the license is transferred, "the only tool we had for leverage has been taken away."

"What it means is the door to the regulators has been slammed shut and bolted," Lampert said.

The NRC decision also will approve the change of plant ownership from Entergy to Holtec, which will hold full interest through a limited liability corporation called Holtec Pilgrim, the entity being listed as the owner of record.

As part of approval, Holtec Pilgrim and Holtec Decommissioning International will get a requested exemption from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that allows use of the plant's decommissioning trust fund for spent fuel management and site restoration.

The fund contains about $1.1 billion.

Sean Mullin, chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, called the decision by NRC staff "a disgrace."

"The NRC's process is a complete sham and is designed to prevent the concerns of the citizens and their local and state governments from being heard in their decision-making," Mullin wrote in a text.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., issued a statement Tuesday decrying the plan to allow the transfer before hearing from the public.

"Too many questions remain and too few answers have been provided to the Commonwealth and to local residents about the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant," Markey said. "From financing to emergency response planning, we have asked for answers and we have received only unacceptable silence. More hearings and opportunities for public input are needed to resolve critical outstanding questions -- until that happens, this license transfer should not be approved. The NRC should not put nuclear industry timelines above the statutory requirement for a process that includes the opportunity for public input and involvement."

Sheehan said NRC staff has carefully scrutinized the transfer application.

"The NRC staff has concluded that Holtec and HDI are financially and technically qualified to own the Pilgrim nuclear power plant and carry out the decommissioning of the facility," Sheehan said. "Prior to reaching this decision, the NRC staff carefully reviewed Holtec and HDI's technical and financial qualifications; the adequacy of the plant's decommissioning trust fund; and the companies' ability to obtain the funds necessary to cover the cost of spent nuclear fuel management and on-site spent fuel storage until it is removed."

The approval will stipulate that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would retain the authority to modify or rescind the license transfer, based on the outcome of the hearings on the motions to intervene, should those go forward.

-- Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.


(c)2019 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Visit Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass. at www.capecodtimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News

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