It has been a source of controversy and safety fears for over 40 years -- but the Pilgrim nuclear power plant has also been a critically important economic citizen for Plymouth, Mass. The plant generates $10 million a year for the town -- 5 percent of its budget -- and 600 jobs paying, collectively, $55 million a year.
Now, that's going away in 2019, or potentially even 2017, as Entergy shuts down the money-losing plant.
"What has happened is a bad dream has turned into a nightmare," said Jeff Berger, former chairman of the town's selectmen's nuclear matters advisory committee. "The hit, I think, is going to be a major hit on Plymouth."
Asked what could potentially cushion the blow of losing Pilgrim, Berger said: "I don't think anyone has any concept of that yet. It's a very important consideration for the town. Whether there'll be some other kind of power plant or something else on that site, you know, it's really too early to say."
Pilgrim foes like Diane Turco of Cape Downwinders and Mary Lampert of Pilgrim watch said it now appears Plymouth faces the worst of all worlds: It's stuck with a nuclear plant that could take decades to be commissioned and have all its radioactive waste removed from the site, and it loses at least half the jobs and most of the economic benefits it now provides.
"Now we're in a serious battle between money and profit versus public safety, accountability, and unacceptable risk," Turco said. "Once the reactor is shut down, that doesn't end the public safety issue ... We are at risk. Pilgrim is a threat, and it will be an ongoing threat, until that spent fuel is out of that [storage] pool and into safer dry casks."
Lampert, who lives in neighboring Duxbury and has been criticizing Pilgrim's safety lapses for years, said, "Because they're losing money, that places us in an especially dangerous period of time, because you have an old reactor that's ranked in the bottom" for safety and requires "a lot of maintenance. That's money. They don't have the money. What is the incentive to really invest to get that reactor in tip-top shape? Zero."
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Entergy acting chief nuclear officer tim Mitchell insists: they'll never slack off, and they have adequate resources to fund the upgrades they have to make.
"My job is to ensure that plant is operated safely, that there is not a threat to the health and safety of the public," Mitchell said. "We will take whatever action we have to to ensure the health and safety of the public is protected at all times."
With videographer Tony Sabato