No Nukes For The Duke: Former Governor Joins Push To Shut Plymouth Power

Former Governor Michael Dukakis worries that residents could be trapped on Cape Cod, should a mishap strike the Plymouth nuclear power plant. It would be even worse in the summer, he said, due to vacationers. Credit Mike Deehan / WGBH News

Originally written by Mike Deehan; appeared in WBGH News

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis was among a throng of activists Tuesday who called for the closure of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant along Cape Cod Bay.

In front of a crowd clad in bright yellow “Shut Down Pilgrim” t-shirts, Dukakis described the plight he said many on Cape Cod would find themselves in if something terrible ever happen to the aging power plant.

“This very, very special part of the Commonwealth, essentially, if there’s an incident, being totally cut off and evacuated or relocated… I think resettled is probably the word for refugees,” Dukakis said.

Around 100 ralliers gathered in the State House’s Gardner Auditorium Tuesday afternoon where they heard from organizers and Cape Cod lawmakers.

“We appreciate those who support the plant and respect the right of plant opponents to make their opinions known. Our focus is on operating the plant safely and reliably,” Entergy spokeswoman Lauren Burm wrote to WGBH in a statement.

The plant began 2015 with a shut-down after two main transmission lines failed. The station shut down again in the spring for 35 days so that Entergy Corporation, the owners of the plant, could make a $70 million investment in fuel and infrastructure improvements to the 42 year old station. The company also installed what Burn described as “post-Fukushima” safety controls mandated by federal regulators after the Japanese nuclear disaster in 2011.

Federal law calls for the evacuation of people within 10 miles of a nuclear disaster, which would leave the vast majority of Cape Cod outside the evacuation zone. A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told WGBH in 2011 that an evacuation zone could be widened if the situation called for it.

The problem would then become managing the Cape’s 200,000 residents and potentially up to 500,000 summer visitors trying to cross the Cape Cod Canal over two four-lane bridges.

Activists contest that a larger incident,  or even something as simple as easterly winds, could spell doom for residents from Bourne to Provincetown trapped on the peninsula.

“But the fact of the matter, folks  is that it’s impossible to meet the federal standards for evacuation plans for any of these locations. It’s simply impossible,” Dukakis said.

According to Entergy’s website, the Plymouth plant generates 680 megawatts of “nearly carbon free” electricity and operated at 97 percent capacity throughout 2014.

“No other electric generation fuel source in New England came close to producing power as reliably,” the company’s site says.

Entergy successfully won a renewed 20 year license for Pilgrim in 2012.