Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station

600 Rocky Hill Road, Plymouth

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Boston Edison Company’s Pilgrim Station Unit 1, circa 1972. Public domain.

On New Year’s Eve, 1988, Diane Turco was preparing for evening guests, but decided to join friends protesting the imminent restarting of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station. (The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission had forced the plant to shut down in 1986 because of many safety violations.) By that evening, Turco was sitting in jail, having joined 34 other activists in refusing to obey a police order to remain across the road from the plant. The arrested were soon released on their own recognizances, however. Indeed, even some of the police were sympathetic: one activist recalls an officer saying, “Thank you for doing this because we know this place isn’t safe and we could never evacuate the people [if there was an accident].”

Members of Cape Downwinders, an organization that Diane Turco co-founded in the mid-1980s, protest Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station, circa 2013. Source: The Patch.

Built by the Bechtel Corporation for Boston Edison, the station came online in 1972. Very soon thereafter, Boston Edison announced that it would expand the plant. In response, the Plymouth County Nuclear Information Center, or PICNIC, emerged to organize against the expansion and for closing the already existing station. Community resistance waxed and waned over the years in the form of various organizations. Nonetheless, activist efforts frustrated the plans of expansion in the case of Edison and renewal in the case of Entergy, a power company based in New Orleans, Louisiana which took ownership of the plant in the late 1990s, during the Clinton-era deregulation of energy. Community protest and advocacy also dramatically strengthened safety measures and public awareness through dogged litigation, protest, and educational activities. Although public health studies revealed that cancer rates increased with proximity to the plant, it was only after Japan’s Fukushima disaster 2011, and uncertainty about the plant’s economic viability in light of strengthening safety standards that, in 2016, Entergy announced that it would decommission the plant. On May 31, 2019, the plant closed down.

These developments notwithstanding, many are very concerned about nuclear waste that remains on site. There is also alarm at the deteriorating condition of its containment and the fact that the waste storage vessels are located just above sea-level. These will remain radioactive for millennia as well as exposed to rising sea levels and storm surges.

Getting there:

About 7.5 miles south of the Commuter Rail station in Plymouth.

To learn more:

Bruce Gellerman and Robin Lubbock, “Photos: Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station Shuts Down,” WBUR, May 31, 2019.

Miriam Wasser, “Pilgrims: 50 Years of Anti-nuclear Mass,” Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, March 3, 2018.

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