Sit-in at Massachusetts Governor’s office to close Pilgrim nuclear plant leads to three arrests


photo by Elaine Dickinson

from Cape Downwinders

Boston, MA – Three activists from the anti-nuclear group Cape Downwinders were arrested at the State House on Friday, September 9. After a rally at the Beacon Street entrance, the group delivered a letter to Governor Baker calling for him to demand the Nuclear Regulatory Commission immediately close Pilgrim nuclear reactor in Plymouth. Their action was prompted by another emergency scram that occurred on September 6th due to malfunctioning safety equipment. After a year of increase oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pilgrim remains at the lowest NRC safety rating, one step from federally mandated shutdown. This is the second shutdown in three weeks due to degrading equipment. Pilgrim remains closed today.

The group, including members from Boston Downwinders and On Behalf of Planet Earth, resolved to remain in the Governor’s office and refused to leave until the Governor made a commitment to uphold public safety. State Police arrived and around 7:30 p.m., three activists remaining were arrested for trespassing – Mary Conathan, Doug Long and Diane Turco. The three were whisked out the back entrance of the State House after State Police set up a decoy to avoid any press coverage.

Arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday, September 13 at the Boston Municipal Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street at 9:00 a.m. They will be represented by National Lawyers Guild Attorney Jeff Feurer.

Diane Turco, director of Cape Downwinders and one of three arrested, stated,”Pilgrim is a real threat to our families and greater community. To keep Pilgrim open to protect Entergy’s bottom line rather than the health and safety of the public is immoral and dangerous. To ignore the documented dangers is irresponsible! To ignore the public’s pleas is undemocratic”.

NY Governor Cuomo has called for the closing of Indian Point due to lack of effective emergency plans to protect people within 50 miles. Vermont Governor Shumlin was committed to close Vermont Yankee and it closed. Now Governor Baker must step up and speak for the people of Massachusetts and do the same here by calling for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to permanently close Pilgrim now.


September 9, 2016

Governor Charles Baker
State House
Boston, MA

Dear Governor Baker,

We come to your office with a most urgent call for public safety. THIS IS A STATE EMERGENCY. We are deeply worried and gravely concerned that the real and present danger to our entire region from the troubled Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is being ignored. The latest emergency scram this week at Pilgrim from another valve malfunction in less than 3 weeks is yet another clarion alarm and a clear warning. Pilgrim Nuclear is an ongoing Commonwealth crisis.

The degrading nuclear reactor has been one step from federally mandated shutdown for over a year even as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stepped up oversight. There has been a lack of maintenance, repetitive and degraded safety equipment failures, spent fuel pool degradation, switchyard failures, falsified records, forged signatures, and failed inspections. All these failures add up to a catastrophe in the making. We are clearly citizens at risk. Our many letters and phone calls to protect the public have been meet with detachment and silence. What is it going to take for you to step up and speak out for public safety and demand the NRC immediately revoke the operating licensee from Entergy?

Given the failing inspections and poor assessments, the aging and degraded Pilgrim reactor continues to operate in the shadow of almost 5 million citizens expecting you to be working in their best interest. Why would you expect Entergy to follow through with NRC safety recommendations when they have proven time and time again not to do so? The public has no confidence in Entergy nor the NRC.

Over a year ago, you wrote to the NRC of concern that Pilgrim was placed into the Repetitive Degraded Cornerstone Column, becoming identified as one of the two worst operating reactors in the country. And yet, Pilgrim continues in that same danger zone today, daily threatening the public health and safety. Problems are mounting. In that same letter, you clearly delineate that Pilgrim should meet ʻthe highest safety standards and that every aspect of its operations are in compliance with all of the rules and regulations of the NRC. We cannot risk the well being of the residents of the Commonwealth”. The NRCʼs own multiple inspections identify ongoing failures according their own regulations. In fact, since the increased NRC oversight in 2014, the performance of Entergy has been on a dangerous downward trend.

As the Chief Safety Officer, your duty to the citizens of Massachusetts is for our protection and our safety. New York Governor Cuomo recognizes the dangers Entergyʼs Indian Point poses for his communities and has taken a stand and called for the closing of that nuclear reactor.

In 2013, all 15 towns on Cape Cod and 5 towns on Marthaʼs Vineyard voted for the Governor to call for the closure of Pilgrim as the emergency plans from the state do not provide for public protection, only relocation for us after the fact of radiological exposure and contamination. There is no escape from the Cape. In fact, it is not only the Cape but Metro Boston and greater New England will be impacted as well.

The NRC has allowed the nuclear industry to delay staff recommended fixes from lessons learned from the disaster in Japan. Fukushima style reactors like Pilgrim are allowed to operate without making safety upgrades. The danger to the public is increasing and there is no other sane option excepting shutdown. The NRCʼs own staff acknowledges that public safety cannot be assured. Senator Markey has declared, “The NRC has abdicated its responsibility to ensure public health and safety in New England and across the country.”

Entergy has been the rolling the dice for almost three more years and that is not a gamble we accept. Cape Downwinders and many other organizations have repeatedly requested you to call for the NRC to immediately close Pilgrim because of this imminent threat. You have remained silent. How can you ignore the outcry for action by our government for safety of its citizens?

Governor Baker, you cannot ignore the NRC confirmation of the poor safety culture at Pilgrim and the documented litany of failures at our peril. Otherwise, along with the NRC, you will be abdicating your lawful responsibilities as an elected stakeholder for public safety.

THIS IS A STATE EMERGENCY. Accordingly, Article 1 of our State Constitution cites the Citizens of the Commonwealth have the right to seek and obtain safety.

We petition you to demand the NRC immediately close Pilgrim and begin decommissioning. The urgency of this matter requires your immediate attention and action.

For Cape Downwinders:

Diane Turco, Harwich
Margaret Stevens, Bourne
William Maurer, Falmouth
Maxine Wolfset, Mashpee
Don Barton, Mashpee
Arlene Williamson, Mashpee
Karen Quinn, Centerville

Susan Carpenter, South Dennis
Sarah Thacher, Dennis

Elaine Dickinson, Harwich
Arthur Dickinson, Harwich

Mary Conathan, Chatham
Bonnie Brydges, Harwich
Doug Long, Orleans