“It’s kind of a sad, but successful story,” says Local 369 President Craig Pinkham when asked about the work his members are doing to decommission the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts.
“The fact is that even though the plant is decommissioned and there are not going to be any more Utility Workers onsite, our members finished the job safely and on time to allow everything to be decommissioned as planned,” he explains.
The Pilgrim plant is the first of three nuclear facilities UWUA members are decommissioning. The other two are New York’s Indian Point, represented by Local 1-2, and Michigan’s Palisades Nuclear Plant, represented by the Michigan State Utility Workers Council (MSUWC).
All three were owned by Entergy and sold to Holtec International when Entergy got out of the business of nuclear generation. Holtec’s job is to decommission the facilities, drawing on the billions of dollars the Nuclear Regulatory Commission makes available for the work through the Nuclear Decommissioning Trust fund.
“It’s important to know that we’ve continued with the same high standards for this decommissioning that we had during the operation of the plant,” says Local 369’s Adrian Lombardo, a Radiation Protection Technician with 15 years of experience at the plant. “There has been no compromise of plant integrity.”
January 6 is Adrian’s last day of work as a Local 369 member at the plant. He’s hoping to stay on during the demolition phase as, in his words, “There is residual contamination in the building. It’s empty but there’s still radioactive components and contaminates,” and he has the expertise to handle them appropriately.
When it became clear that Entergy was getting out of the nuclear generation business, in 2018 the UWUA formed a strategic committee to ensure that members’ bargaining unit work was protected during the decommissioning process. This saved hundreds of jobs, as Utility Workers stay onsite until all the radioactive fuel is removed and safely stored in steel and cement casks.
“We are the first ones to go through what New York Local 1-2 is going through now with Indian Point and what our Michigan brothers and sisters will be going through with the decommissioning of Palisades in the future,” Pinkham says. “We showed it could be done right, done safe, and done on time.”