Local groups have recently asked the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to reinitiate consultation under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), related to the operation of Pilgrim. Section 7 of the ESA requires Federal agencies to insure that any action authorized, funded or carried out by them is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or destroy or adversely modify their critical habitat. Here, the federal action was NRC’s relicensing of Pilgrim for 20 more years of operations, which triggered ESA consultation for many endangered and threatened species, including north Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) that use Cape Cod Bay.

Last May, NMFS concluded informal consultation with the NRC regarding the relicensing of Pilgrim with a “not likely to adversely affect” finding for all species under NMFS jurisdiction, including right whales. But at that time, the federal agencies only considered Pilgrim’s effects on individual, adult whales.

However, new information has recently come to light – the fact that a mother right whale named Wart and her newborn calf were seen swimming very close to Pilgrim in January. Read more about Wart and her calf. Wart and her calf were the first mother and calf right whale sighting in Cape Cod Bay in January in 27 years, and the only mother-calf pair ever documented occurring near Pilgrim. This new information should require the NRC and NMFS to reinitiate ESA Section 7 consultation. In other words, they should reassess whether Pilgrim’s operations could have negative impacts on a nursing mother and newborn calf.

Stay tuned to find out how NMFS and the NRC respond to this request.

Update June 2013: Letter from NMFS to NRC regrading our request for reinitiation, which was denied.

Learn More: Read our June 2013 “Of Nuclear Interest” article about this issue.