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Pilgrim power plant owner still considering dumping nuclear waste into Cape Cod Bay

Holtec International has 1.1 million gallons of radioactive wastewater to get rid of.

The Pilgrim Nuclear power plant on the seashore of Plymouth. David L Ryan / The Boston Globe

The company working to decommission the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth is still considering dumping radioactive waste into Cape Cod Bay despite pushback from activists, lawmakers, and the EPA.

Holtec International has 1.1 million gallons of leftover wastewater from the plant, which closed in 2019, that it needs to get rid of.

NBC 10 Boston reported Tuesday that a representative from Holtec gave an update on the company’s plans at a town hall meeting Monday evening.

“When you do liquid discharges, it is diluted with seawater to non-detectable levels pretty quickly once it’s released, and doing it in small batches is actually the safest manner,” Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien told the news station.


But activists from Save Our Bay, a coalition of conservation groups, local leaders, and citizens who oppose the proposed dumping, say Holtec wants to dump the nuclear waste in Cape Cod Bay simply because it’s cheaper.

While O’Brien denied to NBC 10 Boston that dumping is the cheaper option, the group, which protested in Plymouth before the meeting Monday, says the waste will make the bay’s and local waters unsafe.

“The contaminated water will inevitably flow into Plymouth, Duxbury, and Kingston Bays. The bays are semi-enclosed, and circulation currents tend to keep the water in them. It [does] not quickly flush out and disperse in the ocean, but is likely to end up in the sediments at the bottoms of the bays or beaches,” the group wrote on its website.

​Additionally, Save Our Bay says, the nuclear waste could contaminate the fish, oysters, clams, and mussels that support the local aquaculture industry, making a major local product dangerous.

The loss of the local fishing and potentially tourism, due to contaminated waters would devastate the local economy, the group says.

Save Our Bays is not alone in opposing the proposed dumping. In January 2022, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Bill Keating, and Rep. Seth Moulton sent a letter to Holtec stating their opposition.


Additionally, in July, the EPA wrote to the company saying it doesn’t think the company is allowed to dump the waste according to its permit.

According to The Boston Globe, Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules say Holtec can dump the water as long as its radioactivity is not above specified limits.

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Holtec said previously that the wastewater is treated on site and is minimally radioactive, the Globe reported.

Holtec says it has three other options, according to NBC 10 Boston. It can evaporate the wastewater onsite as it has done with other wastewater over the past two years, it can move it to a new location out of state, or it can hold the water onsite and let it decay over the course of several decades.

NBC 10 Boston reported that O’Brien said the company may end up opting for a combination of the four options depending on the results of testing of the wastewater that Holtec, and now also the state, is doing.

“We look forward to the transparency and helping people understand really the facts over the emotional fear,” O’Brien told the news station.

A decision could come early next year, NBC 10 Boston reported.


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