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    All fifteen Cape towns say 'no' to Holtec's plans for the bay


    June 24, 2022 - Sarah Carlon

     

      "Dr. Singh said he would listen to stakeholders, and the stakeholders have spoken. Our government works on consent, and we say we don't consent to this."

      Diane Turco

      director of nuclear watchdog group Cape Downwinders

      Alongside annual questions of town budgets and facility upgrades, this year Cape Cod voters were asked at local town meetings and elections about the now-closed Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.

      A non-binding advisory question was put forward to all 15 Cape towns and six towns on Martha's Vineyard that read:

      "Therefore, shall the people of the Town of ____ direct the local government to communicate with Governor Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the State Legislature to employ all means available to ensure that Holtec commits to immediately withdraw any plans to dump any radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay?"

      All 15 towns on the Cape, including six on Martha's Vineyard, answered with a resounding "yes."

      Diane Turco, director of nuclear watchdog group Cape Downwinders, wasn't surprised.

      "We expected this, we knew the Cape and Martha's Vineyard folks would understand the issues, and say no to dumping," she said.

      The votes followed an announcement by the company decommissioning the Plymouth plant to discharge nearly one million gallons from the plant into Cape Cod Bay.

      This water was used to cool nuclear reactors and spent fuel cells when the plant was online, resulting in radioactive contamination.

      Despite assurances from the company in charge of the plant's decommissioning, Holtec International LLC, that the water will be treated and monitored for the safety of the bay, as well as meet environmental safety standards set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, critics weren't so sure and mobilized.

      In response, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, held an unprecedented field congressional subcommittee hearing on May 6 at Plymouth Town Hall.

      Markey, alongside U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Bourne, questioned Holtec CEO Chris Singh about the plant's decommissioning, but could not get assurances that Holtec won't discharge into the bay in the future.

      Singh did agree at the meeting, however, to withhold discharging water from the plant into the bay until a third-party expert that both parties agree on could weigh in.

      Since then, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Duxbury, Scituate and Plymouth have all endorsed the advisory calling on the state to ensure Holtec withdraws their plans of discharging into the bay.

      The next steps, according to Turco, are sending the letters to Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey – who filed two petitions against the sale of the plant to Holtec in 2019 and 2020 – as well as asking Holtec to remove any plans of discharging into Cape Cod Bay from its decommissioning outline.

      "Dr. Singh said he would listen to stakeholders, and the stakeholders have spoken," Turco said. "Our government works on consent, and we say we don't consent to this."

      Towns on the bay aren't the only ones calling upon the state to halt the discharge. The Conservation Law Foundation, a New England environmental advocacy group, sent a letter to Holtec on June 1 urging it to remove any plans to discharge the water, with or without the third-party expert opinion.

      "To prevent any potential harm to Cape Cod's residents, visitors, and the Bay's marine life, and to avoid negative impacts to the local economy, CLF urges Holtec to commit as soon as possible to an alternate method of disposal," the letter read.

      Cape Downwinders and Save Our Bay held a rally in Wellfleet on June 14 commemorating the town's approval of the ballot advisory, making it the final town on the Cape to vote on the measure.

      Turco awaits Holtec's response to the advisory question's unanimous approval.

      "I have to be hopeful," she said. "We expect that our democratic process works for the people."

      "Dr. Singh said he would listen to stakeholders, and the stakeholders have spoken. Our government works on consent, and we say we don't consent to this."

      Diane Turco

      director of nuclear watchdog group Cape Downwinders

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