Pilgrim is safe, shouldn’t close early

Calls for shutdown before 2019 are irresponsible

DESPITE ASSERTIONS TO THE CONTRARY, the facts demonstrate that the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station has run very reliably in recent years. For calendar year 2014, our capacity factor was 97 percent — better than any other generator in New England. Even with a planned refueling outage in 2015, we were online 85 percent of the time, and through September 2016, the plant was online more than 90 percent of the time.

Pilgrim is a learning organization. When performance met neither the regulators’ nor our standards a few years ago, we took strong action to identify and correct deficiencies. A recent example was the decision to take the plant offline in early September. These voluntary, conservative decisions to shut the plant down to repair equipment or correct a condition are demonstrations of prudent and safe operations.

Safety is our mantra. The more than 600 professionals at Pilgrim are dedicated to safe and reliable operations all day, every day.  Additionally, the independent experts at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including resident inspectors on site, make sure that is the case. If it were not safe, we would not operate the plant, nor would the NRC allow us to do so.

We have invested over half a billion dollars into plant safety upgrades and new equipment, including $70 million during a planned refueling outage last spring. Our investments don’t stop there. Each year, Pilgrim and its employees donate nearly $400,000 to dozens of organizations in and around the South Shore area and across Massachusetts. Over the past four years, these charitable donations totaled more than $1.5 million. In addition, according to an independent third-party report prepared for the Town of Plymouth, Pilgrim’s annual economic impact contribution to the area is over $150 million annually.

In a state concerned about meeting its climate change goals, closure of this plant, as we are planning to do in 2019, is challenge enough. Early closure of such a safely-operated plant that provides near round-the-clock electricity for over 680,000 homes with virtually zero carbon emissions would create an even greater challenge for the Commonwealth. As a cautionary note: Following closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in 2014, New England’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by 5 percent.

Meet the Author

John Dent

Site vice president, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Stations
Given the economic, environmental, and electricity production benefits Pilgrim provides, for anyone to call for its early closure is irresponsible. Instead, now is the time to continue to plan how to replace the environmental, economic, and electric system benefits that Pilgrim has provided to New England for over 40 years. This will be no easy task, and the implications for the region’s clean energy future are enormous. In the meantime, we will work diligently on operating the plant safely and meeting our electric power supply obligations until our planned shutdown in 2019.

John Dent is the site vice president at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. He is a resident of Duxbury.