Baker vetoes study of Holtec’s plan to dump radioactive water. Why?

Cape Cod Bay is our precious connection to the natural world. Visitors travel from around the globe to marvel at the beauty of the waters. Yet, this bay is threatened by Holtec Corporation’s plan to dump over a million gallons of radioactive wastewater from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station into it despite opposition from citizens of the South Shore, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard, and our local, state, and federal elected representatives — and even though current commonwealth laws clearly prohibit this plan.

Dry casks holding <a href=spent fuel rods in storage on a pad at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth in December 2020.” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTU1Ng–/″/>

Dry casks holding spent fuel rods in storage on a pad at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth in December 2020.

Why do we fear that illegal dumping is imminent? We recently learned radioactive wastewater was dumped into Barnegat Bay at Holtec’s Oyster Creek site in New Jersey” class=”link “>radioactive wastewater was dumped into Barnegat Bay at Holtec’s Oyster Creek site in New Jersey without public notice. Holtec is also planning to dump wastewater from the nuclear reactor at New York’s Indian Point Energy Center into the Hudson River, which supplies drinking water for over 100,0000 people. At the July Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP) meeting in Plymouth, Holtec-Pilgrim manager David Noyes declared, “We will not say that we will not discharge waste into Plymouth Bay.” Holtec plans to dump with impunity!

At the same meeting, Holtec refused to agree it would not dump without Environmental Protection Agency permission, despite the fact that Holtec was told in no uncertain terms that Pilgrim’s current EPA permit clearly prohibits the discharge of water from the spent fuel pool or decommissioning work. While EPA strongly rejected Holtec’s claims of entitlement to dump, the agency cannot take preemptive actions. The fine for illegal dumping is much less than the cost of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approved alternatives, providing little financial incentive for greedy Holtec to choose a legal option. Once again, private profit trumps social risk.

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In an attempt to assuage public concerns, Holtec flew in their own “expert” for the September NDCAP to propagandize the safety of radioactive tritium. Just like the past tobacco campaigns proclaimed, “Go have a smoke. It’s good for you,” Holtec eviscerated established science and dismissed real radiological harms in order to cover their illegal plan. The irreparable damage to our local economies, public health, and marine environment is real and should cause alarm.

In 2021, our state representatives attempted to pass a bill that specifically addressed Holtec’s illegal plan. An Act Relative to Preventing Discharge of Radioactive Materials would have codified the Oil and Hazardous Materials Release and Prevention law, which prohibits the discharge or threat of discharge of radiological materials into waterways. This bill, which characterized Holtec’s plan as ‘Crimes Against Public Health,’ died. However, the original law is intact.

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Earlier this month, the Legislature’s economic development bill reached Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. It included Falmouth Sen. Susan Moran’s amendment establishing a commission to study the economic and environmental impacts of Holtec’s plan before any discharge of water from Pilgrim into Cape Cod Bay. Even though unanimously supported by both chambers, Gov. Baker incredulously killed it with a line-item veto. Why?

The MA AGO/Holtec Settlement Agreement bound Holtec to comply with our laws and regulations. The Massachusetts Ocean Sanctuary Act clearly prohibits dumping into Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury and Cape Cod Bays. Yet, Holtec continues to threaten this illegal action.

Where do we go from here? We applaud Attorney General, now Gov.-elect, Maura Healey for providing assurance that  she was “damn sure, in whatever capacity I serve, that we’re not going to have radioactive waste dumped down here.” She has the authority to stop Holtec by enforcing current laws. At the federal level, Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts is holding Holtec’s feet to the fire to comply with the EPA rules.

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We have a civic and moral obligation to protect our environment for future generations. Every town along the bay, from Scituate to Provincetown has voted to halt Holtec’s plan to dump its radiological garbage into our bay. We stand together and agree; Our beautiful Cape Cod Bay is not a commodity that predatory corporations like Holtec can abuse for profit. Holtec is not above the law and must immediately remove illegal dumping from its decommissioning plan. The state must now step up to preemptively prevent any dumping. No radioactive garbage in our Bay. Not one drop!

Diane Turco, of Harwich, is the director of the Cape Downwinders

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Baker vetoes study of Holtec plan to dump radioactive water in Cape Cod Bay

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