Afterglow at issue with Pilgrim nuke plant

Radioactive elements undergo a chemical decay transforming the matter into a whole different element. Similarly, nuclear power plants receive a second life that extends long after the turbines stop spinning.

The post-retirement future of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is now at issue for regulators and the plant’s neighbors. Entergy, which owns the plant, wants to offload its property to Holtec International, a company that specializes in handling the leftover nuclear waste. If Holtec takes over the roughly 46-year-old plant on the shores of Cape Cod Bay, the company will gain more than just the spent fuel and the solemn responsibility to safely store it. Ratepayers have filled a decommissioning trust fund so that is now brimming with about $1 billion.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Maura Healey and Pilgrim Watch, a local group that has agitated for closure of the plant, filed petitions with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to intervene in the pending sale.

Reporter Miriam Wasser has spelled out the current situation and provided links to the relevant documents at WBUR. Healey asked for an adjudicatory hearing on the license transfer and expressed concern that the trust fund could prove inadequate to cover the cost of preparing the site and managing indefinitely the anticipated 61 dry casks for spent fuel containing more than 4,000 spent fuel assemblies.

Holtec contends it can decommission the plant and put the waste in dry cask storage within eight years, far faster than the 60-year timeframe Entergy laid out.

The policy for nuclear plants around the country is to store the radioactive waste on-site because, despite a lot of urging, there is no centralized repository for nuclear waste generated by power production. Some waste from the nation’s nuclear weapons program is stored in salt caverns 2,000 feet below ground in New Mexico, and there are as-of-yet-unrealized plans to build a more substantial underground nuclear waste storage site in Yucca Mountain, Nevada.

Neighbors of Pilgrim have raised the alarm for years over the plant that is set to shut down by June 1, tracing connections between the local plant and the plant at the center of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. An earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster on Japan’s Pacific coast in March 2011 combined to kill 16,000 people and create lasting devastation and distrust in the area.

A hypothetical nuclear explosion at the plant in Plymouth could blanket much of New England in a harmful plume, according to local activist Diane Turco, who argues the dry cask storage area is too accessible to the public. In 2015, the NRC downgraded the plant to a safety rating just above the level when federal regulators would force it to shut down.

If this all sounds like a complicated and problematic way to keep the lights on, you are not alone. Even though nuclear power provides electricity without spewing carbon emissions into the atmosphere, thereby matching up with the global goals agreed to at the Paris climate summit, its role has diminished. Two years ago the federal government predicted that nuclear power, which then made up 20 percent of electricity generation, would fall to 11 percent by 2050.

Once Pilgrim switches offline for good, the power grid will need to find new sources to make up for the hundreds of megawatts of carbon-free electricity production that the nuclear plant churned out.

–ANDY METZGER


BEACON HILL

Six minority women leaders condemn the removal of Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston as Senate chair of the Legislature’s Education Committee. Senate President Karen Spilka stands by her decision, suggesting the appointment of Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester will help break a logjam and lead to passage of an education funding bill. (CommonWealth)

The state’s Harm Reduction Commission appears torn over the establishment of supervised drug injection sites as it debates a sticky policy issue. (CommonWealth)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Six of eight state lawmakers representing the Cape and Islands are calling for Barnstable County Commissioner Ronald Beaty Jr. to resign after he tweeted asking whether gay politicians are too “self-absorbed and self-centered” to fairly represent all constituents. (Cape Cod Times)

Springfield Police Commissioner John Barbieri resigns amid all sorts of controversy within the department. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Donald Trump’s attempt to redirect funding toward his proposed border wall with Mexico has put at risk more than $100 million in financing for projects at Hanscom Air Force Base and Westover Air Reserve Base, according to members of the Bay State’s congressional delegation. (Lowell Sun)

Governing examines Census data and asks: Where have all the black men gone?

Ahead of the special counsel’s report, Congressman Stephen Lynch tells WGBHIf the facts support impeachment, we will impeach.”

ELECTIONS

Herald columnist Hillary Chabot says there’s a bit of a desperate tone to Elizabeth Warren’s fundraising pitches as she watches Bernie Sanders raking it in.

Michael Graham questions whether Kamala Harris is ready for prime time. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Swansea selectmen say they want a plan from the owner of the Swansea Mall that details how the business on site will be shuttered on March 31. Selectman Chairman Derek Heim says the roads around the site present public safety issues. (Herald News)

EDUCATION

UMass President Marty Meehan and UMass Boston interim chancellor Katherine Newman say the Bayside lease deal is about more than the money. (CommonWealth)

The 7.8-acre Brookline campus of Newbury College, which will close after the spring semester, is on the market. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A newly obtained 1997 deposition of Richard Sackler, a member of the wealthy family that owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, shows that he encouraged marketing managers to play down the drug’s potent addictive powers. (STAT/ProPublica)

Three female former patients have filed lawsuits against well-known North Shore psychiatrist Keith Ablow, alleging that he lured them into degrading sexual relationships. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

State transportation officials say they don’t have enough information to evaluate an outside group’s report that it will face a funding gap of billions of dollars in the years ahead. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A project importing hydroelectricity from Quebec showers hundreds of millions of dollars on Maine, the site of the transmission line. Best of all, says Maine Gov. Janet Mills, Massachusetts ratepayers are paying for everything. (State House News)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A Globe editorial slams the state gambling commission’s conciliatory approach to a lawsuit by Steve Wynn as it weighs whether the company he founded should retain its Everett casino license and says whatever the board rules will be “a farce.”

Saugus and Revere are using money from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to do preliminary design work to improve traffic flow on Route 1 in advance of the opening of the Encore casino in Everett. (Daily Item)

Shaleen Title, a member of the Cannabis Control Commission, says it’s time to stop talking and actually do something about the lack of minority participation in the industry. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Boston police officer was wounded and a suspect killed in an early morning shootout in Roxbury that followed a traffic stop. (Boston Globe)

MEDIA

Texas Monthly launches a paywall.

A group of local media organizations, including DigBoston and Somerville Media Center, convened a community summit in Somerville to improve news coverage of the area.

PASSINGS

Veteran Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Carfado collapsed and died of an apparent embolism yesterday at the Red Sox spring training ballpark in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 62. (Boston Globe) HIs colleague Dan Shaughnessy offers an appreciation of man a New York Daily News sports writer told him “may have been the best national baseball writer in the country at this moment.”

Peter Tork, the bassist for the TV pop group The Monkees, died at 77. (Washington Post)