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    Baker nixes nuclear wastewater commission


    November 16, 2022 - David R. Smith

     

      Gov. Charlie Baker has vetoed a bill that would have created a special commission to study the economic and environmental impacts of a proposal by Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station owner Holtec Decommissioning International to discharge 1.1 million gallons of plant wastewater into Cape Cod Bay.

      The amendment was tied to a $3.7 billion economic and development relief package approved by the Legislature. While Baker signed off on the overall bill, he vetoed portions of it including the wastewater commission, which was spearheaded by state Sen. Susan Moran, D-Falmouth.

      "I am vetoing this section as the commission's work would be duplicative of, and would interfere with, ongoing work on waste disposal and decommissioning issues by the responsible federal and state agencies," Baker wrote.

      Moran said she was dismayed by the decision.

      "I was disappointed to see Gov. Baker choose the path of less oversight when it comes to the safety of our bay, especially in the face of universal appreciation of transparency in nuclear decommissioning," she said in a statement.

      Leading up to the adoption of the amendment, Moran said she had not heard any such concerns expressed during several meetings with members of Baker's team.

      "At no time did anyone ever relay concerns with this important amendment," she said. "I am eager to press the administration for an explanation to understand where opposition for this amendment arose, as I will be refiling at the earliest opportunity."

      Holtec announced its intention to discharge the water a year ago this month.

      The proposal met an immediate and widespread outcry from area residents, as well as federal, state and local officials, who questioned the effect it would have on the local fishing, tourism and real estate industries regardless of whether the harm was real or perceived.

      The Environmental Protection Agency and the state Attorney General's Office say Holtec is not allowed to discharge water, no matter how clean it may be, under its current federal and state permits and agreements.

      Holtec is evaluating four options for disposal: liquid discharge, evaporation, transport to a facility that would perform liquid discharge or evaporation, and storing the water onsite.

      The company has said transporting or evaporating the water would require substantial amounts of fossil fuel, while storing it onsite could indefinitely delay the decommissioning.

      Holtec said it has not settled on a final plan.

      "The most likely solution would be a combination of all four options, not one over another," according to a company statement.

      Holtec agreed to let a third party test the wastewater at a congressional subcommittee field hearing in Plymouth last spring.

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