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PILGRIMS: 50 Years of Anti-Nuclear Mass: An Oral History


1967: The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) approves Boston Edison’s plan to build the Pilgrim plant

1968: Construction begins on Pilgrim 1.

1972: Pilgrim 1 goes online. Boston Edison proposes Pilgrim 2 and 3.

1974: Plymouth County Nuclear Information Center (PICNIC) forms and opens storefront in downtown Plymouth.

1975: Boston Edison announces it won’t build Pilgrim 3, and begins to build parts of Pilgrim 2 onsite. The Clamshell Alliance forms, and 180 people are arrested at a protest in August.

Photo of 1979 demonstration in Boston by and courtesy of Jon Chase

1976: Thousands of Clamshell Alliance members occupy the area near Seabrook, and 1,414 are arrested.

1978–9: Anti-Pilgrim activists fight Pilgrim 2 in court. Clamshell Alliance begins to fall apart.

1979: The Three Mile Island accident intensifies anti-nuclear fervor nationwide.

1980: Boston Edison announces it won’t build Pilgrim 2. The activists’ new focus becomes closing Pilgrim 1.

1982: The NRC fines Boston Edison $550,000 for mismanagement.

1983: Pilgrim shuts down for a year to fix a mechanical problem.

1986: Pilgrim shuts down for three years and the NRC calls it one of “worst-run plants” in the country. A massive accident at the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl nuclear plant inspires a new wave of activists in Massachusetts.

1988: Boston Edison announces that it will reopen Pilgrim in late December. A big crowd protests the restart on New Year’s Eve and 35 people are arrested near the plant.

1990: The anti-Pilgrim movement begins public relations campaign about Ki pills and expanding the state’s emergency planning zone.

1996: Dr. Richard Clapp publishes his cancer study.

1999: Boston Edison sells Pilgrim to Entergy Corporation.

2006: Energy files for a 20-year operating license extension and activists begin petitioning the NRC to reject the bid. Dr. Gordon Thompson and Dr. Jan Beyea publish studies about the potential for spent-fuel fires at Pilgrim.

Photo by and courtesy of Paul Rifkin

2011: The March accident at Japan’s Fukushima power plant reinvigorates the anti-nuclear movement on the Cape. The first “No Escape from the Cape” rally is held in September near the Sagamore Bridge.

2012: Residents of the Cape pass a referendum asking the NRC to hold off on relicensing, but in a 3–1 vote, the commission extends Pilgrim’s operating license. On Mother’s Day, a big protest at the plant results in 14 arrests.

2013: More activists are arrested at the plant during protests in March and May.

Activists sue Entergy and Plymouth over dry cask storage construction. All 15 towns on the Cape pass a non-binding public advisory calling on the Governor to demand the NRC close Pilgrim.

2014: Pilgrim becomes one of five worst nuclear power plants in the country. The four “grandmothers” are arrested at the plant on Mother’s Day, and Dr. Helen Caldicott testifies on their behalf at the trial.

2015: A big winter storm causes an emergency shutdown at Pilgrim in January. Pilgrim downgraded into Column 4, becoming one of three worst power plants in the country. Entergy announces it will close the plant by June 2019.

Photo by Miriam Wasser

2016: The State legislature passes a law creating the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel. The NRC says Entergy needs to do something about the degrading Boraflex panels in Pilgrim’s spent fuel pool. NRC inspector Don Jackson accidentally sends a damning email to Diane Turco, and she forwards it to a reporter.

2017: The NRC holds a public meeting to address the letter Turco received. Entergy requests an extension for “Fukushima Fixes” and NRC says yes. NRC report states that there is no “long-term” solution to degrading Boraflex panels.

2018: Pilgrim scrams on January 4 after a big winter storm knocks out one of its external power sources. The Boraflex panel issue remains unresolved.

PILGRIMS: An Oral History by BINJ




The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism produces bold reporting on issues related to social justice, and cultivates writers and multimedia producers to assist in that role. BINJ supports independent publications in various capacities.

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