When Pilgrim draws in sea water from Cape Cod Bay, it also draws in marine life. The process entrains small marine organisms (e.g., fish and shellfish eggs and larvae) through the system and impinges larger organisms on the intake screens (e.g., adult and young fish and shellfish).
Marine life that are entrained – or pulled through the screens and into the system – are exposed to hot water, chemicals and battered around the plant’s equipment. In a memo in 2000, the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management stated “Twenty-five years of data clearly show that millions of fish larva and eggs are destroyed by [Pilgrim] every year. [Pilgrim] has yet to show the satisfaction of all members of the Technical Advisory Committee that these numbers represent an insignificant “taking” of the local populations.”
Marine life that are impinged on Pilgrim’s intake screens may be killed immediately by mechanical abrasion or suffocation. If impinged marine life do survive, the stress from getting trapped on the intake screens may lead to mortality from exhaustion, suffocation, lowered resistance to predation or disease, reduced ability to feed, or external or internal injuries.
To read more details about impingement and entrainment at Pilgrim, read the Entergy Our Bay is Not Your Dump Report Appendix published in 2015.
Entergy announced in October 2015 that Pilgrim will be shutting down by June 2019 (possibly sooner). After shutdown, the health of Cape Cod Bay will begin to improve, since the daily intake and discharge of 500+ million gallons of seawater will be drastically reduced (along with impingement and entrainment of marine life!) to up to 3 million gallons per day until Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool is no longer operational (likely 5-10 years after closure). However, moving forward we need to ensure the best possible decommissioning plan and site cleanup is carried out (prompt and full cleanup of soils and groundwater) and will ask federal regulators to prohibit a 60-year deferment for cleanup (typical under the common “SAFSTOR” process) because it would lead to further leaching of contaminants into Cape Cod Bay especially as sea levels rise. It’s is also important to advocate for Pilgrim’s nuclear waste storage areas to be moved farther away from the shoreline. As climate change brings greater storms and coastal impacts, problems such as accidents and potential leaks into Cape Cod Bay will be more prominent within a decade. So although impacts to marine life will be drastically reduced after closure, new concerns will arise. Learn more about Pilgrim’s decommissioning →