Pilgrim neighbors based 2014 lawsuit on permits and property values.

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BOSTON — After two years of waiting, neighbors of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station will go to trial Monday in state Land Court to challenge construction of a massive storage facility for nuclear spent fuel on plant property.

The lawsuit, filed in 2014 by a handful of residents who live within two miles of the plant, alleges that the nuclear waste facility will affect property values. The town of Plymouth improperly granted permits to Entergy, Pilgrim’s owner-operator, in 2013, they say.

They contend a special permit process with a public hearing should have been required.

Defendants in the case are Entergy; Plymouth Building Commissioner Paul McAuliffe, who issued a building permit for a concrete pad where massive dry casks would store spent fuel; and members of the Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals, who upheld the building commissioner’s actions.

When the suit was filed, the large concrete pad had not yet been built. Since then, Entergy has constructed the pad about 150 feet from the shore of Cape Cod Bay and moved three massive casks that store 200 spent fuel assemblies onto it.

Pilgrim stores more than 3,000 spent fuel assemblies in a large pool above the reactor. Those will eventually be placed in dry casks.

Margaret Sheehan, an attorney for the abutters, said last week the challenge against Entergy and town officials came down to whether the spent fuel facility “is a matter of right or does it require a special permit, which would require a public hearing and allow Plymouth to add conditions.”

No one envisioned that spent fuel would be stored indefinitely at the Pilgrim site more than 40 years ago, when the town granted the original special permit for the operation, Sheehan said.

Neighbors testified last week, along with an economist who backed their argument on property impacts with studies that showed properties near spent-fuel storage facilities would lose value.

After the testimony, Entergy filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying the plaintiffs had failed to prove they had standing to file the suit. Standing requires that plaintiffs show they will suffer more harm than others in the community as a result of whatever action they are protesting.

In ruling that the abutters did have standing, the Land Court referred to a Plymouth bylaw that regulates the light industrial district, where the nuclear power station and spent fuel storage facility are located.

That district allows businesses of “light intensity, clean operational nature” under the bylaw. Heavier industries, such as the nuclear plant, would require special permits, which Pilgrim secured decades ago.

The court said the general purpose of Plymouth’s bylaw, coupled with the additional requirement that special permits be granted only when the suggested use would not cause a nuisance or adverse impact on the neighborhood, “make the protection of property values an implicit interest protected in the bylaw.”

The trial, presided over by Judge Robert Foster, is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Land Court, 3 Pemberton Square in Boston.

– Follow Christine Legere on Twitter: @ChrisLegereCCT.