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From Cape Cod Times:
Pilgrim principals oppose delay in license review
By Christine Legere Posted at 6:26 PM Updated at 6:26 PM

Owner, potential buyer say break to set post-shutdown conditions gives state upper hand.

PLYMOUTH — The owner of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station and the plant’s potential buyer have submitted joint arguments against the state attorney general’s suggestion that the review of a license transfer request be temporarily put on hold.

Late last week, the attorney general’s office filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission asking the agency to break off its review for 90 days to allow time for the state to negotiate a settlement agreement with Holtec International, the company looking to buy Pilgrim and decommission it.

State and regional officials are looking for solid commitments on issues such as the continuation of emergency response funding for surrounding towns as well as radiological monitoring, and agreement on stricter standards of cleanup for the Pilgrim property than federal regulations require.

If an agreement can be reached, the state says its formal petition to intervene in the transfer review and an accompanying public hearing, submitted in February and not yet acted on by the NRC, would no longer be needed.

For both sides, it comes down to gaining the upper hand at the bargaining table.

In the opposing arguments sent Monday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Holtec and current owner Entergy Corp. say the requested delay would put all the negotiating power in the state’s hands.

“In essence, if the requested stay is granted, the applicants would be able to move forward only if they acquiesced to the Commonwealth’s settlement demands,” they say.

Sean Mullin, chairman of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Committee, said both sides are concerned about loss of leverage.

Approving the license transfer before agreements are made with state and regional officials would eliminate any incentive for Holtec to come to the table, he said.

“What can be done at that point?” he said. “They’ll get a billion dollars with no commitments to the Commonwealth or the region.”

The transfer of the Pilgrim plant includes a $1.1 billion decommissioning trust fund.

Mary Lampert, president of an activists group called Pilgrim Watch, which filed its own petition to intervene in the license transfer, said Holtec has yet to open discussions with the group.

“Holtec does not appear willing to enter settlement agreements or simply sit down and begin discussions,” Lampert said. “There has been no response to the Town of Plymouth request; none to the Town of Duxbury requests; no communication with Pilgrim Watch; no cooperation with Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory panel; and all the response to the attorney general’s office (July 17 letter) was, ‘We are looking at your requests.’”

A written statement was provided on behalf of Holtec and Entergy by spokesman Patrick O’Brien:

“If the NRC staff determines that Holtec meets the required technical and financial qualifications, then the transfer of the plant should proceed. A delay would leave nearly 270 people from the community who work at Pilgrim in limbo.”

The statement goes on to pledge Holtec’s commitment to working with the state on an agreement, whether the license transfer takes place “in the near term or later.”
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