The Donald C. Cook Nuclear Station leaked about 2,000 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan over a two-month period, according to this January 5, 2015 article in the Huffington Post. The leak went undetected for some time and even now, the exact location of the leak cannot be determined. No plan for cleanup exists. Sound familiar?

Like the Michigan facility, Pilgrim has had several leaks over the past few years that have polluted Cape Cod Bay and the groundwater on the site – some that went undetected for months, with exact locations undetermined, and plans for cleanup non-existent.

  • In 2012, an intent to sue letter sent by local residents stated that, since 1996, there have been 33,253 violations of the Clean Water Act at Pilgrim. The letter identified 15 different types of violations, including unlawfully discharging a chemical used to control corrosion in the station’s pipes, exceeding legal limits for pH and chlorine, discharging total suspended solids, oil, and grease without a permit, and failing to monitor and report pollutant discharges. Learn More →
  • Early in 2014, we learned that excessive levels of radioactive tritium were found in groundwater samples near the reactor (69,000 piC/L found in Jan. 2014). Remember that U.S. EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level Goal is zero, and its established safe drinking water level is 20,000 piC/L. While this leak was first discovered in 2013, the exact location was undetermined for many months. Learn More →
  • Pilgrim’s industrial wastewater treatment facility has been found to be discharging high levels of nitrogen and other pollutants into the groundwater via a leaching field on Rocky Hill Road in Plymouth. For example, they have been non-compliant with nitrogen release levels and have until 2016 to come into compliance. Learn More →
  • Pilgrim also reported monthly on sodium nitrite & tolyltriazole leaks occurring since Feb. 2014 (less than 1,440 gal/day). Since they say they are below permitted limits (however, they have no permit to discharge tolytriazole) and the difficulty of fixing the leak, to our knowledge no plan has ever been carried out to stop and fix this leak. Learn More →
  • In 2014, we looked into Pilgrim’s required storm water drain testing – they are supposed to be testing for oil, grease, and suspended solids at 4 storm water drain outfall locations 2 times per year; however, from 2009-2014, sampling only occurred three times in total.

Many argue that nuclear power production is “clean and green” since no carbon emissions are produced during the nuclear fission process. Not only are carbon emissions produced during the life-cycle of a nuclear facility, but pollution problems like those at Pilgrim, the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Station, and nuclear facilities across the country are affecting our water, air, and soil. Furthermore, climate change patterns such as rising sea levels, flooding, and stronger storms are increasing the risks posed by nuclear power facilities sited in vulnerable locations.

The recent leak at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Station is an important reminder that it is inaccurate to label nuclear as “clean and green,” and we must start appreciating the true environmental costs of nuclear power production.

Photo above: This photo taken April 20, 2012, shows the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, Mich., along Lake Michigan’s eastern shoreline. The photo was taken from the same vantage point of an historical image taken for the “Documerica” program, 1972-1977, instituted by the then new Environmental Protection Agency, to document subjects of environmental concern. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green) | ASSOCIATED PRESS