The Pilgrim nuclear power plant has always been ahead of Indian Point in decommissioning.  Their call for a health study before going forward sounds like a good idea.  Perhaps it is something we need to think about for Indian Point.

Marilyn Elie

Physicians say Pilgrim Nuclear decommissioning should wait for health studies

The Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is pictured on Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in Plymouth, Mass. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

CAI | By Jennette Barnes

Published December 19, 2023 at 3:12 PM EST

A statewide physicians’ association, the publisher of the New England Journal of Medicine, says further decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station should be put on hold to wait for research into the public health consequences.

The governing body of the Massachusetts Medical Society passed a resolution Dec. 9 calling for scientific studies to evaluate the health effects of decommissioning on workers, residents, and the environment.

Dr. Brita Lundberg, who was instrumental in drafting the policy, said the group even voted to make it stronger than what was originally proposed.

“They said that, indeed, it is extremely important to collect that data, but that that data must be collected prior to proceeding with the decommissioning of the plant,” she said.

In an interview with CAI, Lundberg said relevant data could include monitoring of radiation, along with biological measures, such as contaminants in breast milk.

“We need data,” she said. “And so, until then, it’s a black box. And that is not an acceptable situation.”

The decommissioning includes the proposed discharge of about a million gallons of radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay. Local activists have called for the water to be shipped to a specialized disposal facility out of state, but Pilgrim owner Holtec International is seeking regulatory approval to release the water into the bay.

Right now, water from the plant is evaporating into the outdoor air, which Holtec and others have said likely increases the possibility of human exposure when compared with water discharge.

Holtec spokesman Patrick O’Brien said the company is following scientifically established limits on radiological discharges from all pathways, including air and water, and has done so for more than 50 years.

“The decommissioning of Pilgrim is being done following the strict state and federal regulatory requirements,” he said in an email.

Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said monitoring of airborne radiation at Pilgrim is ongoing, and releases are well within research-based exposure limits for workers and the public.

But Lundberg contends that the United States has a long history of accepting irresponsible disposal of nuclear waste.

“Ninety percent of uranium is mined, was mined, on Indigenous lands,” she said. “Much of it is also disposed there and in other low-income communities. And that’s not just harmful to health, but it’s deeply unjust.”

The resolution indicates that the Massachusetts Medical Society plans to advocate for funding for the research.