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Testimony in favor of bills S 1797 and S 1798, requiring Pilgrim Nuclear Station to pay for its own clean up
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony today on these two bills, which involve issues surrounding the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station.
MASSPIRG has a long history of calling for consumer protection, corporate accountability, and government transparency. For most of our 45-year history we have advocated against nuclear power for many reasons, including that it is an expensive source of power and that there is insufficient insurance against the threats it poses. These two bills help address those concerns, which remain as strong as ever with the recent announcement of Pilgrim station’s imminent closure.
S 1797, establishing a fee on storage of spent fuels, and S 1798, establishing funding for post closure activity, have been filed to protect consumers and taxpayers in MA, and hold Entergy financially accountable for what will no doubt be extraordinary costs of decommissioning the plant.
On decommissioning, there are a few points on which most experts seem to agree:
1-It’s very expensive to decommission a nuclear power station. While the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in 2014 that almost 200 of the 434 reactors in operation around the globe would be retired by 2040, and estimated the cost of decommissioning them at more than $100 billion, the ‘reaction’ to that figure (pun intended) was skepticism.
According to a Reuters article shortly after this estimate was issued, “The IEA estimate is, without question, just a figure drawn out of the air. The reality is, the costs are quite phenomenal," said Paul Dorfman, honorary senior research associate at the Energy Institute, University College London. Other experts agreed that $500 million sounded, as an average, way too low. In Vermont, the estimate is that the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee will cost roughly $1.2 billion. The NRC recently reported that Pilgrim, bigger and more complicated, likely will exceed that.
2-Reliable estimates of the costs are hard to come by. In a recent report on decommissioning, the United Nations Environment Program said: “The costs of decommissioning nuclear power reactors vary greatly…Methods for carrying out cost estimates have been developed, however, published data on the costs of the small number of decommissionings completed so far are sparse. Estimates of future costs vary hugely.”
3-We need to make sure Entergy has a plan. The IEA's head of power generation analysis, Marco Baroni, said the issue as far as decommissioning costs was not so much the exact cost per reactor. "What matters is whether enough funds have been set aside to provide for it.” SB 1798 addresses that very issue, and we need to move on it now.
The ‘case for’ SB 1797, the storage fee for spent fuels is similar---it’s likely to be expensive, Entergy should foot the bill, and this proposal is fair and important for the Commonwealth and its citizens. We hope both these bills will get quick favorable action, and we thank you for your consideration.
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