Pilgrim Nuclear

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth

A group of concerned citizens is asking Falmouth to take a stand against the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station on Cape Cod Bay through a nonbinding ballot question.

The resolution directs town officials to ask the state government to “employ all means available to ensure that spent nuclear fuel is secured in better quality dry casks and hardened onsite storage; and spent fuel pool and casks are protected with heightened security to prevent intrusion in order to protect the health, welfare, and economic interests of the Town of Falmouth and its inhabitants and visitors.”

The selectmen considered placing this question on the May ballot at its Monday, March 9, meeting.

“We want the safest and most-secure decommissioning [at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station], which is not happening right now,” said Diane C. Turco of Cape Downwinders.

Noting the high-level waste will be stored at Pilgrim for decades, Ms. Turco said this should be stored in the safest and most-secure manner possible. If there is a critical fire at Pilgrim, she said, the spent fuel pool’s plume would extend from Manhattan to Nova Scotia. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has exempted plant owner Holtec from any emergency planning outside its fence.

She said security inside the fence needs improvement, as well.

There is a lack of proper security of Pilgrim,” Ms. Turco said. “We have been able to get past the ‘No Trespassing’ sign, and walk right up to where the dry casks are, in the line of sight and on the same side of the spent fuel pool, for over 30 minutes without any security coming out. If anybody has any bad ideas, they could easily get in their and cause serious problems.”

She is working to place a ballot question addressing this Capewide issue. So far the question has been placed on the ballot for upcoming elections in Eastham, Orleans, Chatham, Dennis, Brewster and Sandwich.

“I think it is absolutely critical the Cape be unified in its support,” Selectman Susan L. Moran said. “I think that is a powerful point when going to the governor.”

However, Selectman Douglas H. Jones noted that the May town election ballot is already packed. The ballot includes the usual races for town government and a number of proposed charter changes. Depending on Town Meeting action, it may also include a $971,507 override of Proposition 2½ to fund the hiring of eight additional firefighters.

“We could just choose to send the letter on behalf of the board of selectmen directly, rather than go to the town for support,” Mr. Jones said.

Chairwoman Megan E. English Braga agreed with sending the letter.

“In my mind, there is no argument about this,” Ms. English Braga said. “It is a looming disaster hopefully not waiting to happen. Unfortunately, I think we are in a worse position now than we have been, because the regulatory commission has abdicated any oversight. What I would like to do is send the letter. I do understand the component of having that public and civic piece, but I do worry about the logistics of what our ballot looks like.”

While she appreciated the gesture, Ms. Turco requested the nonbinding ballot question.

“We would really love to have the people raise their voice and have 90 percent of the people in Falmouth say this is what needs to happen,” she said.

Ms. Moran added that this is a Capewide initiative, so voters will expect to see the measure on the ballot. If Falmouth does not include the measure on its ballot, voters would wonder why, she said.

“I worry about the optics, the headlines, that the whole Cape, except Falmouth, agreed to put this on the ballot, even if we send a letter,” Ms. Moran said.

The board debated whether the question would confuse voters. Selectman Douglas C. Brown said it would not, as it very clearly asks people if they want to see increased safety and security at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. Mr. Jones said the question would confuse him.

“I would be confused as a voter as to why is the board is asking me this,” he said. “It is such an obvious question—why is this a ballot question? Why doesn’t the board just step up and do the right thing? Why are they waiting for the townspeople to have a referendum about this? You have referendums when we’re not sure and we’re looking to the town for direction,” he said. The town’s direction, to me, is crystal clear that they’d say go ahead and send it.”

Mr. Brown asked if the board could send a letter now and include it as a ballot question. Ms. English Braga noted the language of the question, which asks if the people shall direct town administration to communicate these concerns to Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. and the state Legislature.

Ms. Moran added that this also sets up the potential for conflict, should Falmouth residents vote against the ballot question.

Selectmen took no vote regarding the ballot question on Monday. The board will seek input from Town Clerk Michael C. Palmer regarding the length of the ballot, and if this question would require printing an additional page.

“We’re going to get that weigh-in from our clerk about the length of our ballot,” Ms. English Braga said.

Ms. Turco noted a shorter version of the question is available, and offered to provide that language to selectmen. She said the shorter question is being used in Brewster.

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