A Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspection of Holtec International, the company charged with decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, found that it misspent $84,000 from a trust fund paid for by a surcharge on electric bills.  

The Decommissioning Trust Fund – set up to cover the cost of decommissioning Pilgrim and storing the spent fuel on site – was paid for by Boston Edison customers until the Plymouth power plant was sold to New Orleans-based Entergy, which operated it until the time of its shutdown in May 2019.

But a Feb. 29 report from NRC inspectors found that Holtec spent $84,000 from the fund between 2020 and 2022 for community outreach, which is not an allowed expenditure.

“We want to make sure that the money is going towards its intended purpose, which is to complete the radiological cleanup of the site and they also need to cover the costs for spent fuel storage,” said NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan.  

Inspectors found the money was spent on the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Thanksgiving celebrations, and a Fourth of July parade.

Holtec spokesperson Patrick O’Brien said the company has replaced the funds.

“We take our responsibility as watchful stewards of the trust fund very seriously,” he said in a statement. “We are also deeply committed to our local communities we serve as part of the decommissioning process. It is in that spirit as a strong community partner that these charitable expenditures were made, as part of our regular community outreach and engagement activities. We take any violation very seriously and have already taken corrective actions to ensure the amount was restored to the trust fund, with interest, and that this issue does not recur with our future community and charitable contributions.”

Bob Nolet, director of operations for the Chamber, said the money was welcomed by the business group.

“Holtec, and previously to that, Entergy and Pilgrim Station have always been great community supporters of the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce and many of the businesses within the Chamber,” Nolet said in an email. “Their yearly contribution to the Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce puts them in our ‘Chairman’s Circle’ as a major sponsor.”

Nolet said Holtec contributes $20,000 a year to the Chamber – $17,500 as a sponsor and $2,500 for membership.

Last year, Holtec reported that as of Dec. 31, 2022, $518 million remained in the fund. The company predicted at the time that it would cost $586 million to finish decommissioning the plant, including the cost of storing the spent fuel and restoring the site. That process is expected to take 11 more years.

Holtec said that part of the discrepancy between money in the fund and the remaining cost of decommissioning was due to inflation.

In March 2023, Holtec informed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it was postponing the start of the reactor vessel segmentation, in part to give the trust fund a chance to grow as financial markets recovered from a downturn in financial markets.

Fred Thys can be reached at fred@plymouthindependent.org

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