- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
- Department of Public Health
Media Contact for AG Healey, Baker-Polito Administration Reach Agreement With Holtec Over Sale of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant
BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey and the Baker-Polito Administration today announced a comprehensive agreement that ensures critical environmental, public safety, and financial protections for Massachusetts residents during the dismantlement and cleanup of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.
The settlement agreement reached with Holtec Pilgrim, LLC, and Holtec Decommissioning International LLC (Holtec) resolves a petition the Commonwealth filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to challenge an application to transfer Pilgrim’s federal license from Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. and Entergy Nuclear Generation Company to Holtec. The agreement also resolves two lawsuits (September 2019 and January 2020) the Commonwealth filed to challenge the NRC’s approval of the license transfer application, and several administrative challenges Holtec filed to challenge conditions in the January 2020 state water permit for the plant.
“Since the beginning of this proposed transfer, we have prioritized the health, safety and other important interests of our residents, and took steps to ensure that the local community and environment are protected,” said AG Healey. “This agreement provides critical protections, includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements, and secures the funds necessary to safely and properly clean up this site. We are grateful for the partnership with the Governor’s Office and our state agencies to establish this clear framework and oversight that will be needed to complete this work safely.”
“This agreement represents a critical step towards the safe decommissioning and cleanup of the Pilgrim site while our Administration continues working on a clean energy future for the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We appreciate the collaboration of the Attorney General’s Office and several state agencies to reach this agreement.”
“The safe cleanup of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station site is of vital importance to protecting public health and the environment, and the Baker-Polito Administration has been dedicated to ensuring that Holtec carries out its commitment on this issue,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “Importantly, the agreement ensures that the cleanup of the site is overseen by state agencies and be held to the Commonwealth’s strict radiological and non-radiological hazardous waste cleanup standards, and that the necessary funds will continue to be available to ensure that natural resources are restored and public health protected.”
“This agreement will ensure that radiation cleanup standards are being adhered so that we do not have dangerous levels of radiation while the site is being decommissioned,” said Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Our goal has always been, and continues to be, the safety and health of area residents.”
“This agreement is an important milestone. There are things the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), local communities, and Holtec can do collaboratively to ensure safety throughout the decommissioning process,” said MEMA Director Samantha Phillips. “These assurances and the financial support help us continue to focus principally on public safety and preparedness.”
“The agreement announced today paves the way to begin an expedited Pilgrim Decommissioning that will ensure that radiologic and non-radiologic contamination at the Pilgrim is cleaned up decades ahead of federal requirements, and in a manner that meets all Massachusetts' protective environmental standards,” said Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “And as the decommissioning moves forward, MassDEP will oversee the cleanup activities to ensure these standards are met.”
The Commonwealth filed its petition and two lawsuits to address the state’s serious concerns regarding, among other things, the inadequacy of the financial assurances included in the application to ensure the complete and safe cleanup and restoration of the site, the long-term management of the plant’s spent nuclear fuel onsite, and the use of a trust funded in large part by Massachusetts electricity ratepayers to perform all of that work.
The agreement establishes a robust set of financial assurances and related reporting mechanisms to ensure that sufficient funds will be available to promptly and safely dismantle the nuclear power plant, clean up radiological and non-radiological contamination, restore the site, and manage spent nuclear fuel onsite until it is transported out of the state. Under the terms of the agreement, Holtec must maintain at least $193 million in funds until it completes most of the cleanup and site restoration work and, after that point, $38.4 million in funds until the spent nuclear fuel is removed from the plant. The $193 million will ensure funds are available to cover future cost increases and unforeseen contingencies such as project delays and newly discovered contamination, and the $38.4 million will ensure that funds are available to cover the costs to transport the spent nuclear fuel out of state and clean up the land where the spent nuclear fuel will be stored.
Holtec is also required to obtain $30 million in pollution liability insurance and secure performance bonds for certain contracts. The agreement requires Holtec to provide monthly reports to the state in order to monitor the progress of the work at the plant and to foresee any financial issues.
The agreement requires Holtec to comply with the state’s strict cleanup standards when it comes to radiological and non-radiological hazardous materials such as oil and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs). To advance the cleanup work, the agreement requires Holtec to submit to MassDEP and DPH an initial site assessment of the property to ascertain the types of contamination at the property and where such contamination may be located, and establishes clear guidelines for the removal and decontamination of structures, including radiologically contaminated structures, at the site.
MassDEP and DPH will oversee the cleanup work to ensure that public health and environment are protected. To aid in that effort, the agreement secures future funding for DPH so that it can continue monitoring air and food sources outside of the plant’s boundaries for any offsite radiological contamination. The agreement will ensure that the property is cleaned up to a level that will allow for its future reuse to benefit of surrounding local communities, including the Town of Plymouth.
The agreement includes specific emergency preparedness requirements to protect the public in the event of a radiological emergency at the site. To further those requirements, MEMA will receive continued funding each year to perform its emergency preparedness functions until the risks decrease. Without the agreement, most of the existing emergency preparedness requirements and related funding for MEMA would have been eliminated because the NRC decided earlier this year to exempt the plant from federal emergency planning requirements by removing the requirement to maintain a ten-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ) around the site perimeter.
To further enhance public safety, the agreement also requires Holtec to implement cybersecurity measures to limit threats that could compromise plant systems designed to safely secure plant assets such as the spent nuclear fuel that will remain stored onsite. These requirements are not currently required by the NRC.
Since her office first filed its petition to challenge the transfer of Pilgrim from Entergy to Holtec in February 2019, AG Healey has been advocating both in discussions with the NRC and Holtec and through litigation to ensure the transfer included enough funds to safely decommission the plant and protect the state’s taxpayers and the environment.
Since 2018, the Administration, through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, has led an interagency work group consisting of all relevant state agencies involved in the decommissioning effort to provide technical assistance to the AG’s office and keep the public apprised of developments through the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizen Advisory Panel established by Section 14 of Chapter 188 of the Acts of 2016.
AG Healey has been a vocal advocate for increased safety at nuclear power plants. In December 2015, she filed a brief with other New England states in support of Vermont’s call on the NRC to ensure decommissioning funds meant to clean up radioactive waste at closed power plants are not used for other purposes.
In June 2015, AG Healey sent a letter to congressional leaders advocating for three key pieces of legislation that are vital to increasing security at decommissioned reactors where spent fuel is stored, enhancing safety of long term storage of spent fuel at plant sites, including Pilgrim, and increasing opportunities for public participation in the decommissioning process for retiring plants.
AG Healey and Governor Baker led a bipartisan coalition of state and federal officials in January 2017 that successfully called on the NRC to hold a public hearing to address ongoing safety issues at Pilgrim until the plant’s scheduled closure.
This matter is being handled by Senior Appellate Counsel Seth Schofield and Assistant Attorneys General Joseph Dorfler and Liam Paskvan of AG Healey’s Energy and Environment Bureau, with assistance from staff at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and the Commonwealth’s consulting expert Four Points Group, Inc.