Public Lab Research note

Kite Mapping Near Pilgrim Power Plant

by karenv | May 01, 2013 17:57 01 May 17:57 | #7189 | #7189

Did some kite mapping near the Pilgrim Nuclear Plant on Sat., 4/27. The goal was to get some good aerial photos of the property. The wind was a little too strong (~5-10 kt) for a balloon, so we went with a kite. We ended up on the northern side of the plant and despite the wind direction not being ideal for our location (it was coming out of the SW), we still managed to get some good, clear pics.

Looks like something is going on.... but really hard to say what it is. While I don't think we can see if any construction is happening with any certainty from the pics, it was still well worth it because we've demonstrated that we have the ability to monitor them regularly.



Here's a great article about some of the history of the issue...

Entergy originally was saying the construction (that we were able to determine from aerial photos back in Feb) wasn't actually part of the dry cask storage work.

But now they've been permitted by the town of Plymouth to build it as an 'accessory use' to the power plant. But clearly this type of use (to store highly radioactive waste) was not what they intended at the site when it was originally built in the 70s.

So basically - we support the dry cask storage - but want them to get a 'special permit' to build it. This would result in a more stringent permitting process - so we can be sure there is a public hearing and that our concerns (impacts to the coastal zone resources and risk from flooding/storm surges to name a couple) are being considered. Hopefully this would result in a safer, more ecologically sound structure.

You can read more about our organization here:

Below is a press release we just put out about the issue:



Meg Sheehan, (508) 259-9154 Jim Lampert, (781) 934-0389
For more information and copy of appeal:

Local Residents Challenge Entergy's Zoning Permit for Nuclear Waste Storage at Pilgrim in Plymouth

PLYMOUTH - A group of local residents has appealed a Plymouth zoning permit granted to Entergy Nuclear Generating Corporation (Entergy). The zoning permit, granted without any public hearing, gives Entergy the right to have a long-term high-level nuclear waste storage facility at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass. Pilgrim's operating license will expire in 2032. The proposed nuclear waste dump will store all of the radioactive fuel rods that Pilgrim has generated since 1972, for many, many years after Pilgrim itself shuts down.

The appeal, filed with the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals on April 25, 2013, asks the ZBA to revoke the permit because the long-term, outdoor, dry cask storage of nuclear waste is not a "permitted use" under the Plymouth zoning laws, and because such storage also is not what the zoning permit calls an "accessory use." The appeal also asks the ZBA to require Entergy to obtain a special permit. Under the special permit process, the ZBA can set conditions that will insure that the nuclear waste dump is built and operated as safely as possible; the special permit process also allows for public input. Meg Sheehan, spokesperson for EcoLaw, a group of volunteer lawyers representing the residents, said, "We support dry cask storage, but think the residents of the area are entitled to the safest, most secure storage facility that can be built. Entergy apparently did not give critical facts to the Plymouth Director of Inspectional Services. The real fact of the matter is that, without a special permit, Plymouth zoning does not allow long-term nuclear waste storage."

Ms. Sheehan went on to point out that the 1967 special permit for Pilgrim did not allow either the construction or the long term operation of a nuclear waste storage facility. That special permit was limited to "a nuclear-powered generating plant and associated buildings, roads, and transmission facilities"; and in requesting the special permit Pilgrim's original owner, Boston Edison, said "The project will not include a repair station or outside storage of supplies."

"Coincidentally," Mary Lampert of Pilgrim Watch commented, "in mid-April the NRC said that spent fuel storage cask structures and components were prematurely degrading from moisture and weathering, especially in marine environments, and pointed to the need for enhanced monitoring and adequate drainage. A special permit would allow the Town to have a 'say' to assure that these measures, and more, are done to better protect both the public's and worker's health and safety."

"In the past," said Ms. Sheehan, "Pilgrim's owners have asked the ZBA for special permits when they wanted to make changes at Pilgrim. Why is Entergy now trying to avoid the special permit process and get away with doing the minimum possible? That's not OK."

The next step in the appeal process is for the Zoning Board to schedule a public hearing, which will be held in the next 2 to 3 months.


Karen, were you able to identify any new construction in the image? Amazing photo!

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While we knew construction was happening at the site (based on aerial photos we acquired back in Feb), we were curious to see what, if any, additional work had been done. It's tough to tell exactly what's happening based on the photos we got on Saturday. But the real value is knowing that this method can be used as a successful way to peak behind the curtain and monitor what's happening with the construction. Perhaps we'll try again in the future....

Fingers crossed about the appeal that was just submitted last week. Construction of this nature really should require a special permit and be subject to a public hearing.

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Just so we don't lose the link, here's the great coverage of our adventures by WBUR Boston Public Radio:

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