A long-running dispute between Duxbury’s Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) Director Kevin Nord and Entergy, the owner and operator of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant in Plymouth, has led to the layoffs of two part-time DEMA employees and the cancellation of all future training for nuclear disaster due to lack of funds.Nord, who is also Duxbury’s Fire Chief, said the town has been in negotiations with Entergy to fund its Radiological Emergency Response Funding (RERP) since May 2010. The town’s last round of funding has now run out. In a Jan. 30 letter to Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Nuclear Preparedness Manager John Giarrusso Nord wrote, “Both part-time staff members have been advised that due to funding, their services are discontinued. At this time the revised ERP’s (emergency response plans) that were recently sent to this office have not been distributed and due to the lack of staffing may not get out any time soon. This coupled with the discontinued training I believe will border on our ability to respond efficiently and therefore jeopardizes reasonable assurance.”
The consequences to the town and to Entergy could be serious.
“The fall-out if they don’t (receive the appropriate subsidy) is they’ll be in conflict and they’ll have to shut the plant down,” said Nord. “They have to have reasonable assurance that the public will be safe and if there’s no funding, the plant operation with be in jeopardy.”
At the heart of the disagreement was a commitment of $186,000 for disaster training made by a former vice-president of Entergy, said Nord, but that figure was reduced by a newly hired vice-president who offered the town two altered options: $100,000 and $15,000 in training or $68,500 in grants and an offer by Pilgrim to pay for training and equipment reimbursement. Last year, Entergy gave Duxbury a total of $166,500 in two rounds of funding. According to its Web site, Entergy, a for-profit Fortune 500 company, has annual revenues of more than $11 billion.
Pilgrim’s spokeswoman, Carol Wightman, said both her office and the Town of Duxbury are still negotiating. “We’re still in discussions with town officials regarding the town’s Radiological Emergency Plan,” said Wightman, with the objective that we can come to an agreement that’s fair and equitable to both the town and to Pilgrim.”
When asked if a meeting between both sides had been scheduled, Wightman said she didn’t know and that the official with knowledge of that was out of the office and would be through Feb. 3. Additionally, she wasn’t aware of any commitments made to fund the Duxbury’s RERP at a higher or lower level than last year’s figure.
Rebecca Chin, co-chair of Duxbury’s Nuclear Advisory Committee, said the town needs the increase for many reasons, not the least of which is new safety recommendations made by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in the wake of last year’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
“There have been new regulations since Fukushima that make the training more expensive and more critical,” said Chin. “There has to be reasonable assurance that we can maintain public safety in case there’s an accident and we need to be prepared.”
NRC Spokeswoman Diane Screnci said her office is aware of the issue and has been communicating with the state, but is not involved in the discussions between the town and Entergy.
“The off-site emergency preparedness is the responsibility of FEMA and together we would reach the conclusion of reasonable assurance of adequate protection of public health and safety,” said Screnci. “If there’s a determination that there are not adequate protections we could order the plant shut down. But we’re not at that point yet.”
Nord said he’s been in talks with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, which oversees Pilgrim, and Duxbury Town Manager Richard MacDonald who has called for a meeting with Entergy representatives.
“I want to know why they’re not funding this and tell them how it’s going to affect the operation of the Town of Duxbury,” said MacDonald. “I’m very disappointed and very concerned about the safety of the town. We’re in a designated Emergency Planning Zone and training is of the utmost importance.”