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State Policy Unaffected by Nuclear Dangers, For Now

By Charlie Deitz

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-959370.mp3

Massachusetts – Yesterday WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief Charlie Deitz reported on impacts the Japanese nuclear crisis is having on alternative energy producers in Massachusetts. Today we hear from leaders in the public sector on the future of energy production in the Bay State.

Rick Sullivan is the Secretary of the State Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which makes him the point person on state policies surrounding how Massachusetts keeps the lights on. Today, Secretary Sullivan was notified that the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking a proactive role in response to the nuclear dangers still threatening the people of Japan.

"The administration is very supportive of the NRC creating a task force and sending teams over to Japan to learn lessons from events."

The task force is charged with developing 30, 60 and 90 day reports on safety from every one of the nation's nuclear plants, then a long term policy report to follow which will inform the agency's future planning. According to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency a quarter of a million Commonwealth residents live within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant, those being the Pilgrim Plant in Plymouth, Seabrook in New Hampshire and Vermont Yankee in Vermont. While the fate of the Fukushiima Daiichi plant in Japan is still uncertain, Sullivan says the state is not taking any new policy directions at this time.

Many of those policies, such as the Green Jobs Act or the Green Communities Act, were worked on by State Senator Ben Downing who was recently appointed the Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Downing says Massachusetts is heavily reliant on natural gas which has its own serious safety issues as demonstrated by the ongoing debate over hydro-fracking on the Marcellus shale.

"In the past few years we have been focused on smaller impacts of good energy,this brings to light the impacts of combustible fuels."

The NRC safety evaluations could come at a crucial time for the only nuclear producer in the state, the Pilgrim plant, as they are up for a 20 year contract renewal next year. Sullivan says that should Pilgrim fail to get a renewal, the NRC hasn't put any plans in place to supplement the energy they produce yet.

"Supplemental question has not been broached at this point,everybody is very much aware and keenly involved."

Sullivan reasserts that the path the state is on with its alternative energy goals, which include getting 20 percent of the state's electricity needs met with alternative production by 2020, are currently unfazed by events in Japan or by the NRC's ramped up enforcement plans.