Entergy facing showdown with congressional concerns, unions, and state appeals

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Entergy was founded as Middle South Utilities in 1949 to acquire several companies which had been previously owned by General Electric, and is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States after Exelon Corporation.

Questions and problems continue to mount for Entergy in Massachusetts.   Despite community opposition, the NRC guaranteed 20 years of profits for Entergy executives and denied a full investigation of long-term safety and environmental concerns when it decided to renew the operating license of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth.

Now, the state of Massachusetts is appealing a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said an appeal was filed on Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston.  The case is Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (Boston).

The state seeks to “ensure the safety of the plant and the residents of the surrounding communities,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement. “The NRC, over our objections, chose to relicense Pilgrim without fully considering the important safety issues raised in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident,” she said, referring to the nuclear disaster last year in Japan.

NRC officials said the 14,600 hours spent over a 6 ½-year review period for the plant’s renewal application was the longest in the agency’s history.

Other Massachusetts officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick, also criticized the NRC’s decision to relicense Pilgrim before resolving all of the state’s safety and environmental concerns.

Louisiana-based Entergy Corp. makes a million dollars a day from Pilgrim Nuclear, and the company recently received a 20-year license renewal from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Meanwhile, Entergy locked out about 240 unionized Pilgrim workers when their contract expired at midnight June 5 after contract talks broke down, and brought in temporary replacements.

“By having untrained workers in there, and not preparing them for emergencies, it’s disgusting,” said Dan Hurley, president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369.” “Entergy’s ongoing lockout of the experienced workers who know how to safely manage this plant is irresponsible and unconscionable.” He added.

Both Congressman Bill Keating and Congressman Edward Markey questioned the safety of the company’s decision last week–citing safety concerns.  In a letter to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dated June 8, Markey and Keating wrote, “While Entergy management may understand the theoretical manner in which a nuclear power plant operates, theory is rarely a substitute for the sort of practical, hands-on experience the locked-out workers possess.”

At the heart of Entergy’s demands is increasing workers’ health care burden. While Pilgrim workers already pay 25 percent of health care costs, Entergy is seeking to double that amount–effectively a huge wage cut as families languish during the worst recession in decades.

The negotiations between owner Entergy Corp. and union workers at the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, who were locked out when their contract expired nearly two weeks ago, are set to resume Monday at 5 p.m. with guidance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

“The tens of thousands of dollars Entergy is wasting on this lockout could be better invested in a fair and reasonable contract for the hardworking men and women who run this plant and keep it safe and profitable for management.

This rally is to let Entergy know that excessive profits should not come at the expense of the safety of our workers and our committees.”

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant managers canceled a vital safety drill last week because of short staffing by replacement workers during Entergy’s lockout of union workers.

“It’s deeply alarming to know that this critical safety drill was canceled because Entergy doesn’t have enough manpower in the plant, particularly when there are 240 experienced workers ready and willing to do their jobs,” said Hurley. “This drill happens only once a quarter and serves a vital role in helping operations and response crews interact and practice real emergency scenarios that could arise at Pilgrim Nuclear.

The drill’s cancellation is disturbing and another indication that Entergy is placing profits before the safety of workers and our communities.”

The quarterly safety drill features a variety of simulated emergency scenarios of increasing intensity and severity, and includes remote command posts and radiation controls. Workers and emergency response crews even practice chasing a fake nuclear plume should the plant ever have a leak or melt down.

Source: Boston

Source: Bloomberg

Source: Boston

Source: Boston Herald

Source: Boston

Source: Plymouth Daily News

Source: SacBee

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