January 12, 2023

January 11th Cape Cod Salties Forum: Holtec’s Proposed Plan to Dump Radioactive Water into Cape Cod Bay

by Ryan Collins
29 comments

Last night's forum at the Cape Cod Salties Club in Yarmouth, MA was meant to educate Cape Codders about "the legalities, practicalities and risks" of Holtec's plan to dump over one million gallons of contaminated radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay.

The featured speaker in this video is Diane Turco of Harwich, director of Cape Downwinders, a nuclear watchdog and advocacy group that has monitored the plant, and now its decommissioning, for decades.

Chapters:

  • 00:00-Introduction and overview of the issue
  • 06:55-Why we are concerned
  • 14:27 - How the radioactive tritium plume might move around Cape Cod, if dumping occurs
  • 20:55 - Overview of Holtec, the company that's decommissioning the plant, and the company that is planning to release radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay
  • 23:43 - Words of support from senator Sue Moran
  • 30:21 - Reasons why dumping the wastewater is illegal
  • 36:42 - Correspondence between Holtec and the Environmental Protection Agency
  • 41:40 - Review of recent Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel meetings
  • 44:06 - The Holtec business plan
  • 46:28 - Support from governor Maura Healey & what we can do
  • 53:27 - Invitation to attend the January 23rd rally (5pm) and NDCAP meeting (6:30pm) at Plymouth Town Hall, 26 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360

To my astonishment it appears that Holtec, the company responsible for decommissioning the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, is ready to move ahead with dumping 1.1 millions gallons of contaminated wastewater into Cape Cod Bay.

The issue has been covered extensively in the news. I would recommend reading this recent article from WBUR if you would like to learn more about what exactly is going on. 

Holtec, the new owner of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, and the company responsible for decommissioning the plant, is ready to move ahead with dumping 1.1 millions gallons of contaminated wastewater into Cape Cod Bay.

On Monday January 23rd there will be a meeting at Plymouth Town Hall of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel (NDCAP), which advises the Governor and educates citizens across the state on activities related to the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station shut down.

The meeting starts at 6:30pm with a rally held beforehand at 5pm. 

I am planning on attending the rally and the meeting to hear the latest from the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, and from Holtec representatives. You can view video footage of their last meeting by clicking here.

If you are able to make it to Plymouth Town Hall at 26 Court Street on January 23rd at 5:00pm then it would be wonderful to see you there.

Tight lines! 🎣

About the author 

Ryan Collins

I'm fortunate to have grown up on the beach, and I've been fishing since kindergarten. I have great family, friends and fishing experiences to be thankful for. Just being out there is enough-catching fish is just a bonus!


  • I have been trying to follow this issue with Holtec dumping nuclear waste into the bay. I will attend the meeting in Plymouth. I would be happy to drive if anybody needs a ride, I live in West Barnstable. Please call 609 743-2818

  • It might be nice if Diane was to register on Stripers On Line and read what has been posted Under Nuclear Dumping at the Plymouth Power Plant . that i put up for informational reading and make comments if she so chooses. Peace and Prayers

  • As a life member [inactive] for the Massachusetts Beach Buggies [509] I just sent a post to the secretary to see if we could get a support letter to assure we do not get any Nuclear waste dumped in Cape Cod Bay along with the next meeting at the Plymouth Town Hall Peace and Prayers

  • Thanks for posting this Ryan. This is really eye opening!

    I have contacted Senator Markey with a proposal to use eminent domain law to take control of the Pilgrim facilities in order to protect the overriding public safety interests. I’m not a lawyer, but this has been done for lesser public interests like roads and shopping malls.

    One question I have for our nuclear physicist Johan is whether it’s possible to stabilize the nuclear ions through a chemical reaction and avoid the need to dispose of radioactive water.

    • Ken, that is very difficult to do. Folks are working on chemically separating the long-lived radioactive elements, such as technetium-99, cesium-135, iodine-129, palladium-107 and zirconium-93 (with radioactive half-lives of up to a million years), from the short-lived radioactive mtrl. When separation has been made, the short-lived and less harmful elements will be put in storage while the long-lived nasty stuff will be transmuted to another element (same process as turning lead into gold), using a method called nuclear transmutation of waste where very high fluxes of neutrons, from a spallation source, are used to transmute these harmful elements into short-lived or stable nuclei. Unfortunately, we have along way to go before this can be commercially realized.

  • As another thought if it has not been done yet , would be to get the Massachusetts Audubon involved After all we have been trying to protect the Piping Plovers and now if I understand this correctly that the circulating water can eventually get deposited on the beaches. THis in turn would also at some point in time effect the Plovers e, especially during the nesting season. Peace and Prayers

    • I contacted Mass Audubon today. Here is the message I sent them. Hopefully we’ll hear back!

      Hey team,

      I hope you are doing well!

      Just wanted to reach out and ask if you were aware of the Holtec issue we are facing here on Cape Cod? They are saying they want to dump 1 million gallons of radioactive water into Cape Cod Bay. I would imagine this could affect the wellbeing of piping plovers, as well as other sea birds on the Cape.

      Here are a few links to recent articles and videos in the press which explain more about the issue:

      https://www.wbur.org/news/2022/12/08/epa-holtec-contaminated-wastewater-cape-cod-bay-clean-water-act

      https://myfishingcapecod.com/wastewater/

      Maybe there is some sort of law or act regarding piping plovers that the state of Massachusetts could use to halt Holtec’s plan to dump the radioactive wastewater?

      Thank you very much for reading,

      Ryan Collins

      • I have also been reaching out to various northern right whale advocacy groups. I immediately heard back from the Whale & Dolphin Conversation of North America. Here is their reply…

        Hello! Yes we are aware of these horrid plans! We are working with some other local NGO’s to submit letters in opposition to it. While it is critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales, that does not seem to be a deciding factor for whether it can be dumped unfortunately (i.e. evidence that it will negatively impact the habitat). We’ll check out the link though and share it with colleagues! Thank you for sharing it and for being advocates for our ocean and its inhabitants. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at [email protected] – Sabrina Braunlich, Program Associate

        • Ryan thanks for being pro active in both situations and now at least we can at least say more folks have been informed in a more positive manner to bring them into the picture that will with out question affect them in the end. Peace and Prayers

      • Hopefully the response will be positive and thank you for being pro active in contacting the Audubon society. In another time I would have been on the phone with the director at that time , whom I had the pleasure of working with on another project I was working with in the Division Of Mass Wildlife . Peace and Prayers

  • Good presentation in regards to the affect of dumping nuclear waste water in Cape Cod bay . We all need to get on board this train to assure this never ever ever occurs Thank you Ryan for video this important illegal attack on our aquatic resource we all love and cherish Peace and Prayers

    • Hey Betsy! I tried live streaming the presentation through Facebook but the app on my phone kept freezing. However I was still able to record the presentation and I have posted the full video at the top of this post if you’d like to check it out. Thanks for your support!

  • Ryan as concerned citizens and oversee-res of our environment where most of us here over many years have enjoyed the natural beauty and bountiful fishing from these waters we need to all use our combined voices to put stop to any such discharging of any type of water that may be nuclear in nature. No matter what they say or speak about how it gets reduced when it enters our fragile Cape Cod Bay water system . Cape Cod bay now already has dead areas in it now during some parts of the warm weather conditions it is subjected to now. Why add a unknown quantifying reaction adding this to this situation now in Cape Cod bay. Why take a risk so that a company who knew before hand what was needed in order to completely close down this plant when the contract was signed by them. We have a place here on MY Fishing Cape Cod to provide a platform for others to chime in and after a period of time take those feelings to the appropriate government officials to augment what the rest of the folks may be concerned about. Ryan please keep me in the loop when you go down cape for the salties Meeting . I would need a ride , if you want company to go along with you. This is a serious breach of trust if the Holtic is allowed to discharge this water into a natural environmental water way that supports what living Whales we have left in the world today and in some cases may reduce a protected species of mammals by law , some thing we surely do not need to take any chances on , given the reduction over these past number of years . Peace and Prayers Carl

  • I have contacted Senator Markey regarding this matter and encourage others to do the same or contact the governor or attorney general.

    I believe that with a coordinated political effort they can make it a very unprofitable decision for Holtec to do this.

    The more people who speak out about this the more likely that action will be taken.

  • From 1946 through 1993, thirteen countries used ocean disposal as a method to dispose of radioactive waste from the medical, research and nuclear industry. The waste materials included both liquids and solids, as well as reactor vessels, with and without spent nuclear fuel. Didn’t know about this and find this incredibly disconcerting. Since 1993, ocean disposal of highly radioactive material has been banned by international treaties, which is one step in the right direction in my view, but low-level waste is still being dumped in the ocean at various places around the world. See image. I’m sure Russia is dumping stuff too that IAEA is not aware of.

    Under the management of Entergy, Pilgrim has been dumping low-waste water in the ocean since it started operation in the 70s. The argument is that the waste water dilutes with seawater to non-detectable levels pretty quickly once it’s released. In principle I think this is true. I also think it’s true in practice when it’s done far from land (although I dont recommend it). In the case of Holtec and Pilgrim, I don’t think this is true at all, the 1 million gallon of contaminated water, which they are planning to dump, will inevitably flow into Plymouth, Duxbury, and Kingston Bays because they are semi-enclosed, and circulation currents tend to keep the water in them and the radioactive material will most likely end up in the sediments at the bottoms of the bays or beaches. Unacceptable in my view. A side note: from the image you can see that countries like Sweden and Finland are not dumping waste water in the ocean even though 50% of their power production comes from nuclear power. Why is that? Probably because of serious environmental concerns. My apologies for this rant, but I felt I needed to say something because I am a nuclear physicist in my profession.

  • I live in Plymouth and attended a talk some time ago about the decommissioning of the Plymouth Power Plant. Unfortunately, the dumping they are considering is legal, but certainly not the right thing to do. They were issued a temporary restraining order, but certainly agree that the public needs to weigh in to stop this terrible path that Holtec is considering!

    • Not according the recent comments by the EPA quoted in the above article – they need to apply for a change to existing permit (at least that’s the way I’m reading it)

  • I have heard that the fine for dumping is less than the cost of proper disposal. From what I understand that doing the right thing has been or is going to be put aside to provide HOLTEC with a greater profit.

  • Marking it on the calendar Ryan

    Agreed We need to stand together on these things – these corporations are banking on people not paying attention

  • That very real dumping has been on tv lately, hard to bliev but could still happen, anybody aware of this who loves the salt should show up in numbers to oppose… i m all in

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