PLYMOUTH (CBS/AP) – Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is shutting down, its parent company announced Tuesday.
Entergy Corporation of New Orleans, Louisiana, said it will close the only nuclear power plant in Massachusetts no later than June 1, 2019.
The company cited rising operational costs, reduced revenues and low energy prices.
“When you look at where prices were say approximately a year ago, compared to where they’re at right now, gas prices have dropped over a dollar, power prices have dropped over ten dollars. That is equivalent to a loss of over $40 million a year in revenue for the facility. So that is the number one driver of the decision,” Bill Mohl, Entergy’s president of wholesale commodities, told WBZ-TV.
‘DID NOT SEE THIS COMING’
Plymouth Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said she was surprised by the announcement.
“I did not see this coming this morning,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030. “I thought that this message was at least a year away.”
Arrighi said she’s concerned what the tax impacts will be on the town.
“The exact timing of the shutdown depends on several factors, including further discussion with ISO-NE, and will be decided in the first half of 2016,” Entergy said in its statement.
“The decision to close Pilgrim was incredibly difficult because of the effect on our employees and the communities in which they work and live,” said Leo Denault, Entergy’s CEO and chairman.
“Our people at Pilgrim are dedicated and skilled, a wonderful blend of young professionals and seasoned, experienced veterans, who for decades have been generating clean power and contributing millions of dollars of economic activity to the region. But market conditions and increased costs led us to reluctantly conclude that we had no option other than to shut down the plant.”
About 600 people work at Pilgrim, which spent $70 million earlier this year upgrading and overhauling the plant to make it safer.
Pilgrim provides 10-percent of the electrical power to Massachusetts.
LOWEST SAFETY RATING
According to Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission listed Pilgrim in “Column 4” of its reactor safety ratings, which is the least safe rating for an operating reactor.
Getting it back to normal levels of NRC oversight is estimated to cost more than $100 million, Markey claims.
“While nuclear energy was once advertised as being too cheap to meter, it is increasingly clear that it is actually too expensive to matter,” the senator said in a statement Tuesday.
“Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is just the latest example of how nuclear power simply cannot compete in the current energy market. And alongside the economic conditions that Entergy blames this closure on, there also have been decades-long and repetitive operational safety and security concerns with the facility that have contributed to this announcement.”
Markey said the NRC needs to decommission the reactor quickly.
“We cannot allow the public to pay the price if Entergy comes up short on the bill to safely close this plant,” he said.
“Our Administration will work closely with Pilgrim’s leadership team and federal regulators to ensure that this decision is managed as safely as possible,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with ISO and the other New England Governors to ensure that Massachusetts and New England has the baseload capacity it needs to meet the electric generation needs of the region.”
BEGAN IN 1972
Pilgrim, which began commercial operation in 1972 and generates 680 megawatts of electricity, was relicensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2012 for an additional 20 years.
Citizens groups have been fighting for years to shut it down, saying it’s unsafe.
LONG-TERM FEDERAL SOLUTION NEEDED
Attorney General Maura Healey weighed in on the closure of the plant on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Attorney General’s Office has long advocated for increased safety standards at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. My primary concern now is that Entergy initiates a safe and orderly closure of the Pilgrim plant, and that it invests the proper resources to do so. I’m concerned as well that measures are in place to support workers,” Healey said in a statement.
“Today’s announcement also highlights the need for a long-term federal solution to the storage of spent nuclear fuel at the facility and across the country. I am as convinced as ever that the solution to our long-term energy needs must include a broad portfolio of sources that meets our environmental, jobs and cost goals for all residents.”
WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)