Is it safe to close Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station? Isn't the power from Pilgrim critical to Massachusetts?

Fifteen years ago, generating capacity might have been a critical issue. Since then, however, the state cleaned up the notorious "filthy five" (actually six) largest coal-burning power-plants, opened ten combined-cycle, natural gas-fired plants and began a program bringing power from wind farms, now mostly located out-of-state.

By far the largest elements, slipping well below the radar as far as most state residents are concerned, have been combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power plants opening, approved and pending in the state. They include:

Calpine, Dighton, 170 MW, opened 1999
Berkshire, Agawam, 250 MW, opened 2000
Blackstone, Worcester, 570 MW, opened 2001
Millenium, Charlton, 360 MW, opened 2001
Kendall, Cambridge, 170 MW, repowered 2002
Bellingham, Norfolk, 570 MW, opened 2002
Fore River, Weymouth, 820 MW, opened 2003
Mystic, Everett, 1,640 MW, opened 2003
Stony Brook, Ludlow, 530 MW, opened 2002-2005
Watson, Braintree, 110 MW, opened 2009
Stony Brook, Ludlow, 280 MW, approved 2008
Clean Energy, Brockton, 350 MW, pending
Pioneer Valley, Westfield, 430 MW, pending

The combined generating capacity of these highly efficient, low-pollution plants--6,250 MW--is more than nine times the capacity of Pilgrim Nuclear in Plymouth. The average capacity growth of combined-cycle, natural gas-fired power in Massachusetts would replace the Pilgrim plant's capacity in less than two years.

Within 50 miles of the Pilgrim plant--the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's evacuation zone during the recent nuclear crisis in Japan--is all of Metro Boston and South Shore, plus most of Cape Cod. There is no longer an energy need to maintain an aging and potentially dangerous nuclear power-plant at this location.