The effect on MetroWest and the Milford region from a disaster at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth is being called “relatively low” by state officials, but several towns in the area fall within a designated 50-mile range which could lead to some precautions in case of an emergency.
The power station opened in 1972 and provides nearly 10 percent of the state’s electrical demand, according to its website. The Entergy-owned plant is running $40 million in the red annually.
Shortly after the reactor was downgraded by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to one of the three worst performers in the country in fall 2015, Entergy announced it would close Pilgrim permanently in mid-2019.
Daniel Wolf, a state senator representing the Cape and Islands, says the biggest threat to safety is is spent fuel that will remain in Plymouth for the foreseeable future.
Because the operation is running $40 million in the red annually and destined to close in three years, critics say the motivation for Entergy to keep Pilgrim’s systems purring just isn’t there.
Spokesman Patrick O’Brien said Entergy’s sole focus at Pilgrim right now is on its safe operation, but it will evaluate its options, including a possible sale to a cleanup company, as the mid-2019 shutdown date approaches.
Chris Besse, spokesman for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said the primary concern of an emergency at the plant is within a 10-mile radius, which includes Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury and portions of Carver and Marshfield.
“Our majority of planning is within the 10 miles,” he said of possible emergency responses.
He said this is based on federal standards — and scientific research — of the potential of people breathing in radioactive particles. The plans include evacuation routes to Taunton and Bridgewater.
In the MetroWest and Milford areas, several towns fall within what is known as the “50-mile Ingestion Pathway,” which means radioactive particles could land on the ground or crops depending on the wind and weather conditions. Besse said there is a less immediate risk, but affected land would have to be tested.
“We would look to see where the wind is blowing and send out teams to sample,” he said.
Depending on the conditions, residents could be asked to go indoors and not eat anything growing outdoors, Besse said.
“It’s a pretty far distance and the risk is relatively low,” he said of the Framingham area.
Portions of Mendon, Hopedale, Milford, Hopkinton, Holliston, Ashland, Framingham, Natick and Wayland are within the 50-mile range, according to a map produced by MEMA.
“I understand we are on the outer cusp of it,” said Framingham Deputy Police Chief Steven Trask, who also serves as the town’s emergency management director.
He said the town has a comprehensive emergency plan for a number of emergencies, including natural disasters. He said the town would react depending on the type of information received from the plant or regional officials.
The town hasn’t done any particular drills to prepare for an emergency at the plant.
“We are significantly downrange,” Trask said of the plant’s location in Plymouth.
Like Framingham, Franklin hasn’t done any drills specific to the plant. The town is completely within the 50-mile range.
“It would be a situational awareness of what’s going on,” said Franklin Fire Chief Gary McCarraher.
He said citizens would be directed to take precautions based on wind, velocity of the wind and atmospheric conditions.
“There is no one size fits all,” he said.
—Christine Legere of the Cape Cod Times contributed to this report.
—Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 508-626-4338 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JPhelps_MW.
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