Is Pilgrim safe?

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To the Editor:

Island voters, protect yourselves.

On Tuesday, November 4, there will be a public advisory question on the ballot to expand the the Plume Exposure Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) to include Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties. It calls on elected officials to take concrete action for attention to risks from the continuing operation of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. Cape and Island voters were instrumental in providing thousands of signatures necessary to put this question on the ballot. They realize that Pilgrim has been rated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as one of the nine most unreliable plants in the U.S. and 2nd at risk for serious damage from an earthquake. In addition it has become a radioactive dump site due to storage of its over 3,600 spent fuel assemblies (amassed since its start of operation in 1972) which are currently stored in unsafe, wet pool containment tanks intended to house only 880 assemblies. These tanks are not only overcrowded but are increasingly vulnerable to the warming seas, rising sea level, and catastrophic damage from potential storm surge flooding and extended power outage that confront us courtesy of climate change. The risk of a meltdown like that at Fukushima is becoming increasingly possible at this aging, failing plant.

Expanding the Plume Exposure EPZ would acknowledge that we are a population at serious risk from an accident at the plant, beyond ingestion dangers. Currently, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) plan is to mandate Cape Codders and Islanders to “shelter in place” until relocation and to advise ingesting potassium iodide pills to protect the thyroid (free and available from your town’s Dept. of Health).  Cape Cod and the Islands are not included in an evacuation plan. With no escape from the Cape, our emergency planners need to vigorously evaluate the risk to the citizens on this side of the Cape bridges. Can we really be safe?

In an expanded zone, the Emergency Management responders would be included in the emergency notification system, methods, and procedures planning group — which may have an impact on their townspeople, rather than being excluded from the planning. Real-time air monitoring, emergency communications, public information and education, identification of radiological shelters, and other recommendations would be implemented. An assessment of radiological shelters currently available could determine the adequacy or lack of protection for the public.

CapeDownwinders will advocate for the legislation, once drafted, to include the following language: If at any time following the development, review, or approval of state and local radiological emergency plans, the Governor determines that said plans are no longer adequate to protect the public health and safety, he or she shall notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to secure withdrawal of the plans and call on the NRC to revoke the operating license and begin the decommissioning process.

Let’s hope for the best but plan for the worst. Vote Yes on Question 5 (6 in Chilmark).

Ann Rosenkranz

West Tisbury