Company Plans to Dump Radioactive Wastewater into Cape Cod Bay

Wastewater could have negative effects on the Cape Cod Bay ecosystem.

On January 11, OTW Publisher Chris Megan and I attended a meeting held by the Cape Cod Salties Sportfishing Club to discuss the potential disposal of nuclear wastewater in Cape Cod Bay. Holtec International, an energy technology company, took ownership of the shuttered Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 2019, and received a decommissioning trust fund of more than $1 billion to cover the cost of dismantling the reactor. The power plant contains 1.1 million gallons of nuclear wastewater that has been sitting inside a cooling compartment on the power plant property.

Holtec plans to discharge the water into Cape Cod Bay, but  the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned Holtec that unauthorized discharges into the Bay would be violation of the Clean Water Act. Holtec initially indicated that they might dump water illegally and be willing to absorb the cost of any fines, but at a January 23 meeting of the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel, a representative of Holtec International said the company is still pursuing changing a discharge permit that would allow it to legally discharge the radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay and will not discharge spent fuel pool water until that permit modification process is completed.

At the Cape Cod Salties meeting, we inquired about other (legal) disposal options besides dumping in Cape Cod Bay. The legal, but more costly alternatives included:

  • truck it away to other facilities for disposal
  • evaporation and discharge through the plant’s air-handling system
  • long term storage on site

Trucking 1.1 million gallons of toxic water away would cost Holtec valuable time and resources. Evaporating the water would require their continued involvement with the site, forcing them to allocate more money, time and resources to a project they want to be finished with. Long term storage on site is the most expensive alternative, as it could require tens of years spent sitting in its current location before the water is free of toxicity. Because the company wants to move on from this project and take a profit from the unspent grant money, unfortunately, dumping in the bay is, in their eyes, the best option.

What would this wastewater do to our local fisheries?

It’s not known exactly what effect this wastewater would have on the waters surrounding Cape Cod. Plymouth was the site of stellar trophy striped bass fishing in 2022 due to massive schools of adult and juvenile menhaden. The oily baitfish brought stripers, sharks, and humpback whales within several hundred yards from shore. Cape Cod Bay is also one of the remaining strongholds for winter flounder—how would it impact those populations? How severe an impact could it have on local seafood markets, charter businesses and tourism in Cape Cod? What about the health and safety of the critically endangered right whales that return Cape Cod Bay every winter and spring? Furthermore, dumping radioactive wastewater into Cape Cod Bay puts other nearby waters at risk of contamination. Due to strong tidal current, the toxic water would potentially spread around Race Point to Outer Cape beaches, down to the northern shores of Cape Cod, and even into Buzzards Bay via the Cape Cod Canal.

Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, along with Representatives Keating, Moulton, and Cyr have stated that they are working in opposition to Holtec’s plans to discharge radioactive wastewater. You can contact your local legislators and let them know your concerns about the possible discharge of wastewater in Cape Cod Bay.


(State) Elizabeth Warren

(State) Ed Markey

To find and contact local legislators in your part of the state, use this link!

32 on “Company Plans to Dump Radioactive Wastewater into Cape Cod Bay

  1. EB

    I can’t figure out how this is humaly possible, why can’t the government assist in dumping the waste at a contained land waste or deep sea ? I am having a hard time beleiving this is legal in any way, shape or form. VERY DISTURBING

  2. GC

    Let me see if I got this straight. The TAXPAYERS paid Holtrc ONE BILLION DOLLARS to remove the toxic wastewater’s and because they want to make a Profit on the taxpayers money, the cheapest solution is to dump it in Cape Cod Bay and that would be legal!!! This country is going nuts!! Time to put up the For Sale sign on my house and get the hell out of here.

  3. Wayne Miller

    Thank you for putting this out there for all to see. As someone who has fished the shores of the bay for decades I am livid. This has to be one of the most arrogant, irresponsible actions of corporate greed to happen to our area, ever. I implore everyone to contact state local and federal officials to condemn Holtec and their plans. Supposedly, last year there was a bill introduced to the MA legislature to prohibit the discharge but I could only find conflicting information on the status. When Holtec closed VT Yankee Nuclear Power in Vernon VT they didn’t have a beautiful salt water bay to dump their toxic trash into so they trucked it away. Exactly one year ago in February of 2022 I sent this information to another NE fishing publication and never saw a word printed about it. I wish now that I had sent it to On The Water. Please, keep up the good work. I will be getting a subscription to On The Water today!

    1. Rich J

      Holtec never owned Vermont Yankee. Entergy sold VY to North Star. Please do more research

  4. Chris

    I am a life long fisherman, conservationist and love and care about cape cod bay and the health of it’s ecosystem and economy. I have also worked for 6 years in a naval nuclear power plant and I am currently a radiation safety officer in research and development company. I am not worried about this discharge if it is done properly according to standards set forth by the NRC and IAEA. People aren’t getting all of the information from this article or from the media in general when it comes to the science and real risks of nuclear power, radiation and waste products. This is just more fear mongering from people that are mostly uneducated on these topics. This is not high level nuclear waste they are discharging into the ocean. This is treated waste water that only contains tritium. First, tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that has a relatively short half-life of about 12 years, which means that it decays relatively quickly and loses its radioactivity after it decays it just becomes helium. Additionally, tritium is a low-energy beta-emitter, which means that it cannot penetrate the human body or other biological material to cause harm. Tritium has not been shown to bioaccumulate meaning if it is ingested it hangs around for a bit and is excreted. Furthermore, dilution in the vast volume of the ocean can further reduce any potential risk. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other organizations have established regulations and guidelines for the disposal of tritium-contaminated waste, which require careful monitoring and management to ensure that the concentrations are within safe limits. Tritium contaminated Water discharges into the ocean are safe and normal part of operations of nuclear plants across the globe and pose very little threat when done properly. Over the course of the operational life at the pilgrim facility they have already discharged over 600,000 gallons of this same waste water into cape cod bay without any measurable impact to the local environment. At the end of the day if the water is discharged into the bay normal back ground radiation levels will increase but only by an infinitesimal amount. You would receive a much higher dose of radiation from eating a banana for breakfast everyday.

    1. Kevin Blinkoff

      Thanks for sharing your perspective and information Chris. We’re not trying to be fear mongerers, but we are hoping to make the fishing public aware of the issue. Personally, I hope that the decommission is handled responsibly and any decisions are based in science and what’s best for the public, not based solely on profits or emotion. If the EPA has denied Holtec’s permit and determined that the discharge would be in violation of the Clean Water Act, that tells me we need to be paying attention, asking questions, and making certain that any actions are done properly with scientific montitoring including baseline studies.

      1. Cape

        Kevin you don’t need to explain your self to a dum ass Chris. Chris works for the company I bet. He’s on this and trying to sell his or companies agenda.

    2. Nick Caparell

      Chris i appreciate your expertise however you are missing the fact there there is such a thing as organically bound tritium that can attach to hydrogen/ oxygen/ nitrogen atoms that are ultimately taken in by fish/aquatic life. and there is plenty of literature that ingesting tritium in this form can be more damaging to cells. i’m sorry, with these unknowns AND holtec not having the best track record with ethical behavior (research holtec) I simply don’t trust that they will follow regulatory guidelines properly and at the end of the day when there’s other options, dumping should be the absolute last one regardless of $$.

    3. Cape

      Hey Dum Ass!!!
      You drink the water before it gets pumped into the bay then. Science. My god!!!
      You trust to much or you work for the company.
      Let the toxic topic go for a second. 1.1 million gallons of fresh water will ruin the saltwater environment. Dum Ass!!! That’s why state regulates dumping of snow in harbors. Fresh water kills. This isn’t open ocean it’s actual right off of Plymouth beach. Meaning shore line. Fresh water will disturb saltwater plant life .
      Also about 7 miles on in incoming tide you have oyster farming there. Oysters filter water. Asshole wake up
      Toxic or treated toxic waste water is BAD!!! This is not your Deer Island waste treatment plant in Boston.
      Dump Ass!!!

    4. Catherine Avellar

      Sounds like you have all the answers, how much are they paying you!

    5. Paul G

      The very idea that the solution to a nuclear plant clean-up involves discharging over a million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the commons, into Cape Cod Bay, is mind-blowing. It takes care of Holtec’s problem by shifting it squarely onto all of us living around the Bay. Who will want our seafood? Who will want to eat an oyster, a littleneck, a flounder, or a bass that was once swimming and feeding in radioactive wastewater? And, would you want your children swimming in it? The perception alone (!!) will damage the reputation of the Bay as a clean, healthy marine environment. Forget it. The solution to pollution is NOT dilution.

  5. Mark Van Leeuwen

    I am totally against Holtec dumping the wastewater into the bay. Trying to make a profit is not a valid reason to destroy the bay and potentially affect many endangered species of wildlife in and around the bay. I live and work on Cape Cod and spend time on the water in the Bay. They need to find another way to remove the radioactive wastewater from the plant. I am sure dumping it in the bay was not on the proposal to the Govt when they put in their bid. they need to stick to their proposal and protect the local environment.

  6. Chris

    Notice, if you post a comment on this thread with factual scientific information that refutes the dangers of this planned discharge it will be moderated off by the censors at on the water. So much for having an intelligent conversation on the topic.

    1. Cape

      Chris it’s about science
      You’re not using common sense . Fresh water kills ocean wild life. This is inside way inside the bay .

      1. Cape

        4 Big Barges equals about 1.1 million gallons!!!!
        Barges the ones that gets towed by tug boats.
        1.1 million gallons of water toxic chemicals.
        Deer island in Boston. Mass
        Pumps cycled clean human waste water.
        Heard Thor thing.
        The State installed 14 to 18 miles of piping from Deer Island treatment plant to the center of Mass Bay. So it can circulate properly in the ocean.
        Hmmm 1.1 million gallons of toxic fresh water being pumped off the shore line.
        What could possibly go work?
        Common sense

      2. Peter

        This is political the politicians involved most likely getting kick backs afterall 1 000 000 000 dollars tax payer moneys looks like greased palms to me they all should go to jail dont trust the politicians involved they are liars and cheats

  7. Townie

    Same, Chris. I was censored as well. The article is click bait fear mongering. OTW, provide all of the facts so that people can make an intelligent decision rather than be fed OTW’s view.

    1. Cape

      Townie so your for this. How much you making off this? If it’s that safe you drink the water.
      Are you serious? Look at Ohio ok people come back you’re safe 1 mile you’re fine as we burn chemicals.
      This is not fear mongering.
      You must work for the company or state and lined your pockets up with this company

      1. Townie

        You’re part of the problem. Calling educated people who are asking for ALL the facts, not one side, makes you sound like what you’re calling them. A dumb ass. And no, I don’t work for Holtec nor have any association to any entity involved in this. Take the L, educate yourself and make an informed decision rather than contribute to the problem.

      2. Cape

        What facts you want to know?
        Water that has chemicals being discharged in a delicate ecosystem. Hmmmm
        What could go wrong?
        Besides the point.
        1.1 million gallons of fresh water is to much to be dumped into a small area.
        1.1 million gallons equals 4 big barges. You know the size barges that being towed through the canal.
        4 full size of those barges that is how much fresh water will be pumped off of Plymouth. Never mind the water has chemicals in it.

      3. Cape

        How much more info you want? Townie?
        Too much of anything is bad.
        This fresh water dumping is bad!!! That is why this State does not allow towns or cities to dump snow in the harbor.
        In the ocean you have tides yes. But fresh water is heavier than salt water.
        Common sense.
        What could go wrong with 1.1 million gallons of fresh water being pumped into a harbor type area.
        Again it has chemicals in it.
        Townie do research on fresh water how it disrupts saltwater ecosystem.

        I’m not part of the problem.

  8. Nick Caparell

    hi all- please sign and share this petition. it will be sent to the holtec CEO, individuals in charge at the plymouth site and to MA government officials. 10,800+ strong and still going. we need to band together and stand up against this-

    1. Cape

      I have been Nick!!!
      People that I have been talking to are sharing this!!!
      They are pissed off not feared, pissed .

  9. Romer

    Didn’t the government state that those burn pits were safe? Or the drinking water at Fort Lejeune was safe too? Do you trust the government? And what they taught you? I have a battle with Worker’s Compensation because their in network doctors say my knee is fine but the doctors outside say there is a staple in my knee.

  10. Bruce Aquizap

    Thank you Mr Markey and Ms Warren. Still drinking out of the same troth of fear to feed the voters I see.

  11. Bad News

    Get rid of it and dump it in someone else back yard. That’s the sentiment I hear echoed. At the end of the day Holtec could just dump it and eat the fine. The are gonna dump it at some point. It would be nice to decontaminate it for another 10 years beforehand atleast.

  12. Commentor

    Hopefully, our Senators and Congressmen are working hard to prevent any discharge into the Bay. They need to be constantly and pulicly pressed on this issue now and especially as they seek re-election. The public – the people who klve, work, visit, vacation, and use and enjoy the great natural resources of Cape Cod Bay – must be made aware of what is happening.

  13. Peter

    Yah thays what i thought say something about * politicians and they dont like the truth

  14. Cape Codder Concerned

    Where does this stand after last month’s meeting?? How can we as a community stop the dumping if they are still pursuing the discharging permit or simply illegally release the radioactive waste water and pay the fines with the money they recieved? What else can we do to stop this??

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