Holtec now able to progress Pilgrim decommissioning

18 June 2020

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Holtec International have signed an agreement on key issues related to the decommissioning of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, including a guarantee by Holtec to ensure funds are available to cover future cost increases and other contingencies.

Decommissioning work is under way at Pilgrim (Image: Holtec)

The agreement, signed on 16 June, resolves a petition filed with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in February 2019 in which Massachusetts challenged an application to transfer the plant's licence from its former operator, Entergy Nuclear Operations, to Holtec. It also resolves two other lawsuits filed by the state challenging the NRC's subsequent approval of the licence transfer and several administrative challenges filed by Holtec relating to conditions in the state water permit for the plant.

"This agreement provides critical protections, includes compliance measures stricter than federal requirements, and secures the funds necessary to safely and properly clean up this site," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy said.

Under the terms of the agreement, Holtec must keep at least USD193 million in funds until it completes most of the cleanup and site restoration work, after which it will be required to maintain at least USD38.4 million of funds until all used nuclear fuel has been removed from the site. The first amount will ensure funds are available to cover future cost increases and "unforeseen contingencies", while the other will ensure funds are available for the transport of used fuel out of the state and the clean-up of land where it has been stored, the state said.

Holtec said the newly signed accord will allow it to focus on meeting its decommissioning timeline for the plant. "I'm pleased we were able to work with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to find common ground that provides Holtec the certainty needed to safely complete decommissioning on the projected timeline,” Holtec Decommissioning International (HDI) Chief Operating Officer Pam Cowan said. "Our commitment to be a good neighbour, and our shared goal of protecting the health and safety of our workers, the community and the environment were clear drivers for both parties that led to this agreement."

The 680 MWe boiling water reactor shut down in May 2019 after 47 years of operation and was acquired by Holtec that August after the NRC approved the transfer of the plant's licence, including its existing dry cask used fuel storage installation. It was the second US decommissioning project to be acquired by Holtec, following Oyster Creek in New Jersey. Holtec has also announced purchase-sale agreements for Indian Point in New York, which closed in April of this year, and Palisades in Michigan, which is due to close in 2022.

Holtec has previously said it plans to complete decommissioning of the Pilgrim site - with the exception of the used fuel storage facility - within eight years. The company plans to store used fuel from Pilgrim and other plants at its proposed HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility in southeast New Mexico, for which it said it expects the NRC to issue a licence in the spring of 2021.

HDI is a wholly owned subsidiary of Holtec International and is the licensed operator for Holtec-owned nuclear power plants. The decommissioning work is carried out by Comprehensive Decommissioning International, which is jointly owned by Holtec and SNC-Lavalin.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News